Historic Opening of Borders Railway Celebrated

A commemorative stone sculpture has been unveiled at Tweedbank Station to mark the day Her Majesty The Queen opened the Borders Railway and became Britain’s longest serving monarch.

The Lord Lieutenant of Roxburgh, Ettrick and Lauderdale, Captain The Hon Gerald Maitland-Carew, carried out the duties on Friday 18 November alongside Borders artist Michelle De Bruin who created the piece.

The two metre high sandstone was sourced from local firm Hutton Stone and weighs over 750kg. It took 200 hours to complete, with apprentices Josephine Crossland and Luke Batchelor assisting Michelle on the project.

The Queen opened the Borders Railway on 9 September 2015 and over 1million passengers having travelled on the line in its first year.

Following the campaign to try to halt the closure of the Waverley Line in 1969 which ultimately proved successfully, efforts were renewed through the 1990s and 2000s to return trains to the Borders.

This included a petition of over 17,000 signatures calling for a return of rail services being presented to the Scottish Parliament in 2000.

Councillor Graham Garvie, Convener of Scottish Borders Council (SBC), said: “With the line officially opened by The Queen at Tweedbank on the same day she became Britain’s longest reigning monarch, it was felt that a permanent tribute was required to mark this significant moment in British history as well as the achievements of local campaigners.

“After a series of options were carefully considered, the idea of a commemorative stone - located on the spot where The Queen declared the line open – was taken forward.

“I am sure that this beautiful artwork will become a focal point of Tweedbank Station for Borderers and visitors to enjoy for years to come.”

Councillor Garvie added: “It is particular appropriate that the unveiling was carried out by Captain The Hon Gerald Maitland-Carew, Lord Lieutenant of Roxburgh, Ettrick and Lauderdale, as he was instrumental in arranging for The Queen to open the Borders Railway line on such a historic day.”

Councillor David Parker, Leader of SBC, added: “The opening of the Borders Railway was one of the most momentous events in the history of our region.

“The £350million project was the longest new domestic railway to be constructed in Britain for over 100 years and brought trains back to the Borders for the first time in 46 years.

“The opening of the line followed a campaign which was a triumph of a community working together to ensure that a dream which many thought was impossible could become a reality and I am delighted their work will be permanently recognised by this commemorative stone.”

Michelle De Bruin studied Fine Art at Glasgow School of Art before moving to the Borders to live and work.

She has previously exhibited her work at the Royal Scottish Academy in Edinburgh.

She added: “The building of the Borders Railway is a rare achievement in our day and age.

“I was honoured to be asked to undertake this commemorative project, and I hope that people will feel that the final design reflects the importance of the event.”

Phil Verster, Managing Director of the ScotRail Alliance, said: “The Borders Railway is firmly lodged in the hearts of communities who live, work and play along the length of the line – and far beyond.

“This superb sculpture is a visible testament to its early success and I am confident that our plans to add more carriages onto the route from 2018 will bring additional economic and social benefits.”

VisitScotland Regional Director, Doug Wilson, said: “The Borders Railway has provided a huge boost for Scottish tourism and has helped to shine a spotlight on the Scottish Borders, Midlothian and Edinburgh.

“It is thanks to the efforts of local campaigners that it is now easier than ever before for visitors to explore the wealth of attractions on offer in the regions.

“It is fitting that the momentous re-opening of the historic route by Her Majesty The Queen on the same day she became Britain’s longest serving monarch is commemorated in this way and the locally-sourced and crafted sculpture will prove an added draw for visitors to the railway line.”