Liam Beattie reflects on his Twitter Takeover
Liam Beattie (@Liam_Beattie) took over the Borders Railway twitter account (@BordersRailway) for the day on Friday 11 September to get under the skin of what the railway means for local people in the Scottish Borders. Here's what he found.
Upon logging into the Twitter account it became apparent how much excitement and enthusiasm there had been over the course of the opening week, including the official opening by HM Queen. The feed was filled with selfies of families using the line to explore and pictures of school pupils in awe at the sight of steam trains meandering along the Gala Water.
My first visit was to my former high school, where I chatted to staff and pupils about their plans to use the line. The senior group were unanimous in their enthusiasm in using the trains to go shopping in Edinburgh, with other pupils citing the opportunity to access university and college open days in a much quicker time. My former teachers, some of whom remembered me writing an article for BBC News aged 15 about the need to bring trains back to the region, said they hoped the line would open the region and opportunities for young people.
Before leaving Hawick, I paid a visit to my grandfather who used to tell me stories as a child of train spotting along the old Waverley line during the 1940s. He expressed his happiness at the reopening of the line and explained how he would use it.
Upon arriving in Galashiels I visited the Borders College and Heriot Watt University campus and was met the Student Union President. Students were really keen to find out more information about the line and get the chance to use it. Staff told me of exciting plans to utilise the new line to attract larger numbers to open days during autumn, with the ambition to increase the number of students from outwith the region.
During the day I chatted to various businesses in both Galashiels and Tweedbank. Upon asking how much the new line had helped trade, staff told me of the surge in trade during the first week and increased number of tourists passing through their doors. There was also real sense of pride in shops and restaurants about the quality local produce that is available in the Scottish Borders, with an array of displays to entice customers.
My final visit was to a youth video making group who produce a weekly news bulletin. The opening of the Borders Railway was the top story and the group of volunteers were successful in chatting to Nicola Sturgeon and capturing the large crowds at Tweedbank on the official opening day. When the team wasn’t busy editing, shooting and script writing, they told that the railway had been a topic of hot conversation across the entire region.
On my train journey up to Edinburgh, something I had dreamed about as a child, I took a moment to reflect on the stories and how the new railway had the potential to transform the Scottish Borders for the better. My 100 mile trip showed me that this pocket of the country may have been cut off from the rail network for decades, but it was now more outward looking and welcoming than ever.
The message I took away from my day’s tweeting is that a new exciting chapter is about to be written in the Scottish Borders and it's open for the world to help experience and write.