Full steam ahead 50 years on for Hawick rail campaigner

On July 15, 1968, then transport minister Richard Marsh made a statement to the House of Commons confirming the imminent demise of the Edinburgh-Carlisle line.

And 50 years on to the day, stalwart rail campaigner Kim Elliot, 60, of Hawick, will be undertaking an epic journey of commemoration. There will be particular poignancy as he travels the length of the country by foot and rail, including the longest cross-border service in the UK, from Aberdeen to Penzance.

Kim’s mother Madge fought vigorously but in vain to save the Waverley Route before it closed on January 6, 1969. Madge, 90, also from Hawick, now suffers Alzheimer’s disease, and Kim will be raising funds for Alzheimer’s Research UK, as well as raising the profile of the Campaign for Borders Rail and its drive for the reinstatement of the railway through his home town.

Kim is negotiating the journey in four stages, starting off by walking from John o’Groats to Thurso on Saturday, July 14, then taking a train from Thurso to Aberdeen via Inverness on Sunday, July 15. He will then undertake the UK’s longest continuous train journey on Monday, July 16, before walking from Penzance to Land’s End on Tuesday, July 17.

Five months after the original closure announcement in 1968, Kim, then 10, accompanied his mother to London to deliver a petition to 10 Downing Street demanding the route be given a reprieve.

Lifelong rail enthusiast Kim said: “The idea came to me last year when it was my 60th birthday, but I ended up celebrating by going to Switzerland and spending 11 days on the railways there. “Then I realised that the 50th anniversary was coming up this year, and it seemed to be perfect timing to do it in July. I have been involved with the Campaign for Borders Rail since 1998, and this is a chance to raise its profile. “I’ll also be raising funds for research into Alzheimer’s. It’s not going to benefit mum, but I’ve seen the impact it has, not just on the person themselves but on their families.” 

The Queen officially reopened part of the old railway line between Edinburgh and Tweedbank in September 2015, and campaigners are pushing for it to be extended.

Now, approaching the semi-centennial anniversary of the longest single closure of the so-called Beeching Axe, the message from the Campaign for Borders Rail is that the prospect of the Waverley Route making a comeback is closer than ever.

“Where we stand now is that rail is firmly on the agenda for the Borders,” said Simon Walton, the campaign’s chairman. “There are options to be considered, and it’s my firm belief that we are closer than ever to achieving our goal of relieving the economic blight inflicted on Borders communities over the last 50 years. “Kim Elliot’s journey is a prime example of the way railways connect communities, and his lifelong commitment makes us all proud to count him among our number.”

To support Kim’s fundraising efforts, go to uk.virginmoneygiving.com/JohnElliot2 Madge is still keeping up her calls to have the Waverley Route reinstated in full ...