Golden Ticket Winners Reflect on Special Day

One year after receiving an exclusive first trip on the Borders Railway, a selection of Golden Ticket winners have been queuing up to give their thoughts on the special day.

Over 1,000 people travelled on the line from stations in Midlothian and the Scottish Borders on 5 September 2015, a day before the railway opened to the public.

The majority of those on-board were Golden Ticket winners, who were picked after both Midlothian and Scottish Borders councils ran competitions which saw a combined total of around 1,600 applications received.

The worthy winners were chosen for a variety of reasons including those who had a link to the railway, were considered an unsung hero, carried out excellent community work or had done something special or overcome personal challenges.

Twelve months on, a number of Golden Ticket travellers have given their opinions on the railway.

Scottish Borders

• Billy Scott – the six year old’s father had planned to travel on the Borders Railway with his son, but sadly he passed away in early 2015. As a result Billy was nominated for Golden Ticket day.
Mum Vikki Scott said: “Billy absolutely loved Golden Ticket day from start to finish. He loved going through the tunnels, how fast the train was, how friendly the staff were.
“He was just treated like a prince all day. I don't think he has ever ate so much - he just loved it!
“Since then we have regularly used the train and Billy and his wee brother Alfie are still as excited as that first day.
“He loves it and it has opened up so many possibilities for us as a family - we have had lovely family days to the zoo and visited friends in Glasgow. These days out would not have been possible without the Borders Railway.
“We definitely still remain positive about the railway and we would love to see it extended to Carlisle.”

• Jake Szoneberg – now 11 years old, the Hawick High School pupil loves trains and wrote to Hornby asking them to produce a Borders Railway train. Alongside his little brother Caden, Jake has raised money for charity by taking part in 5K Race for Life.
He attended the first anniversary event for the Borders Railway at Waverley Station on Friday 9 September.
Jake said: “It was a really enjoyable day and also strange to be on a train in the Borders.
“I have since been on the train to go to Holyrood Palace and plan to go to a Scotland rugby game at Murrayfield in the future.”

• Georgina Boggs – alongside Vivian Miller and Nicola Corbett, Georgina was nominated for her role on the management committee of local charity Borders Additional Needs Group which helps children with rare and complex needs.
Georgina added: “As a Golden Ticket winner, I was totally overwhelmed on the day.
“I use the train quite regularly for trips to the city and my children use it every day for school.
“As the Chairperson of Tweedbank Community Centre, we also held a day in September 2015 to celebrate the opening – it was terrific.”

• Mark Timmins – the former lecturer in fashion at Heriot-Watt University campus in Galashiels, Mark has gone to become team leader at Galashiels Works, encouraging unemployed young Borderers to become employable. This month he was involved in an arts project named Art Walk Porty related to the Borders Railway in Portobello.
He was also part of the Borders Railway first anniversary event.
Mark added: “The railway has been really positive for the young people I work with as it is a lot easier for them to gain experience in Edinburgh.”

• Isobel Allen - wearing eye-catching hats made from Golden Tickets and dressed to the nines, Isobel Allen and her family group brought bucket loads of glamour and fun to the Borders Railway community events last year.
Isobel, who manages Mayfield Library in Midlothian, says winning a Golden Ticket for the first journey on the train was “absolutely fantastic”.
The first year of the Borders Railway has made a big impact on her travel habits, she added. “I’ve been on the train loads of times. I use it all the time to travel to Edinburgh, usually shopping. I never take the car or bus now.
“The parking is so expensive in Edinburgh and it’s a real hassle. The bus just takes too long. I usually park at Eskbank or Newtongrange, jump on the train and I’m in the city in 20 minutes. I can read a book, use my phone or Ipad, it’s so relaxing.”

• John Gilhooly – a Golden Ticket winner and third generation British Rail employee from Eskbank, John was delighted to wish the Borders Railway a very happy first birthday.
He says he thoroughly enjoyed his VIP trip on the line to mark its opening last September.
John, who worked as a booking clerk on the Waverley Line from 1950 to 1971, recalls: “Cathy, my wife, and I left from the Shawfair station. There was a chap on the train I’d worked with years ago although I didn’t recognise him. We blethered all the way down.”
John was also chosen to be presented to Her Majesty The Queen when she officially opened Newtongrange Station in September last year. He jokes: “It was a very memorable time. I thoroughly enjoyed it. I have also been on the train since then as a mere mortal!”

• Cerys Hares - A year after Cerys Hares, 12, presented The Queen with a posy when Her Majesty marked the opening of Newtongrange Station, life for the local pupil has got even better.
She is enjoying her first year at Newbattle Community High School and she and her mum Gillian are now regular passengers on the Borders Railway.
She says: “We’ve been on the train a lot. We go up to Edinburgh. I was up for a saxophone exam and we’ve also go up shopping. It’s quicker than the bus.”
Cerys, who lives with her mum Gillian and sister Rebecca in Newtongrange, is now looking forward to having a brand new school when the replacement for Newbattle opens in 2018.

Images of the Scottish Borders Golden Ticket winners are available at Scottish Border's Council Flickr page.