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A double celebration

Press release   •   Sep 09, 2015 15:26 BST

The Borders Railway has been officially opened by Her Majesty The Queen today on the day that she becomes Britain's longest serving Monarch.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon and 150 other guests joined Her Majesty and the Duke of Edinburgh on an iconic steam train journey from Edinburgh to mark the official route opening, before a special plaque was unveiled in front of thousands of spectators at Tweedbank station.

During the journey, the steam locomotive – Union of South Africa – made a stop at Newtongrange for a Royal plaque unveiling, before conducting a slow pass through Galashiels to allow the thousands gathered in the town to celebrate the line’s opening.

The Borders Rail project, which was constructed on time and on budget, is the longest new domestic railway to be constructed in Britain for more than 100 years, and connects communities in the Borders and Midlothian to the rail network for the first time in more than 40 years.

The First Minister said: “I want to start by acknowledging the milestone which makes this a historic day for many people far beyond the Scottish Borders. Her Majesty today becomes the longest serving monarch in Scottish and UK history.

“Throughout Her reign - supported at all times by the Duke of Edinburgh – She has carried out Her duties with dedication, wisdom and an exemplary sense of public service. As a result, Her Majesty is admired and held in affection across the Commonwealth and around the world. The reception She has received today, demonstrates that that admiration and affection is certainly felt here in Scotland.

“The very first public opening Her Majesty performed, as Princess Elizabeth, was in Scotland - at the Aberdeen Sailors’ Home in 1944. Perhaps the proudest possession of the new Scottish Parliament is the mace She presented to us when we reconvened in 1999. Her Majesty has undertaken thousands of engagements across this nation including – last year – the opening of the Glasgow Commonwealth Games. And of course, Her affection for Scotland was shared by Queen Victoria, whose memory She respects so much. In fact, when Queen Victoria became the longest-serving monarch, she was also in Scotland – staying at Balmoral.

“So it is fitting that Her Majesty has chosen to mark today’s milestone here. And all of us are delighted to be able to share some of this day with Her. By being here, She is adding a special touch to what is already a special day – for the Scottish Borders, for Midlothian, and for Scotland as a whole.

“I know that there will be some people here who have campaigned for a Borders rail link to be reopened, virtually from the day it was closed. It has been a long time - 46 years - in coming. But today, I’m delighted that their persistence has seen a reward.

“This new Borders Railway line is the result of £300m of investment and the expert work of more than 1,000 people. It involved building or repairing well over 100 bridges. At 31 miles, it is the longest new domestic railway in Britain for more than a century. More important than those figures, however, are the benefits the line will create. It will bring improved services for tourists – who can reach the beauty and history of the Borders in less than an hour. It will reduce car use and help the environment. It will provide better connections for local businesses and residents.

“And it puts the Scottish Borders and Midlothian back where they always belonged - on the railway map of Scotland and Britain.

“One of the many great events Her Majesty has seen in Scotland during Her reign was 51 years ago, when She opened the Forth Road Bridge. She expressed then the hope – which has since been fulfilled – that the crossing would “bring prosperity and convenience to a great many people in the years ahead”.

“This Borders Railway line will do the same. It will help to generate prosperity and improve people’s quality of life. By doing so, it will bring major benefits for Midlothian and the Borders – and for Scotland as a whole.”

Mike Cantlay OBE, Chairman of VisitScotland said: "We are honoured that HM The Queen has chosen to spend this incredibly special anniversary in Scotland.

"The Royal Family has long been an advocate for Scottish tourism. Queen Victoria and Prince Albert first visited in 1842 and fell in love with the country, vowing to come back. Their return led eventually to the acquisition and creation of the 'dear paradise in the Highlands', Balmoral Castle and Estate, and a yearly tradition of visiting our beautiful and serene landscapes.

"We have no doubt Her Majesty will have enjoyed spending this wonderful day officially opening the Borders Railway. Travelling on a steam train from Waverley and passing through some of the most remarkable landscapes in Europe to Tweedbank, we are sure the royal family will be inspired to add the experience to their Scottish itinerary for many years to come."

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