Campaign to bring Beattock Station back to life gathers steam

Beattock was one of the most iconic stations in the history of British railways.

At this crucial point in South West Scotland, extra steam engines were on standby, 24 hours a day, to push heavy trains uphill for the ten miles to Beattock Summit.

This was immortalised by W H Auden in one of his most famous poems, The Night Mail, in 1936:
“Pulling up Beattock, a steady climb:
“The gradient’s against her, but she’s on time.”

Although thousands of trains still go through Beattock on the West Coast Main Line every year, not one stops.

Beattock Station was closed in 1972, when the line was electrified and modernised.

This has left nearly 48 miles of railway line between Lockerbie and Carstairs with no station – the longest stretch in Britain. Residents of the rural communities in Beattock, Moffat and the surrounding areas have to travel up to 20 miles to reach their nearest station, in Lockerbie.

Meanwhile, demand for rail travel continues to grow, with the number of passenger journeys each year in Scotland now reaching 175,000,000.

A station at Beattock would serve about 5,000 local people and transform their work opportunities, with a daily commute to Edinburgh, Glasgow or Carlisle taking only 45 minutes.

In addition, Moffat and Beattock are the focal point for travel, tourism and other businesses in central southern Scotland. The M74 motorway from Glasgow to the English border at Gretna runs near the line and the Southern Upland Way, Scotland’s famous 212-mile coast-to-coast walk, passes through Beattock, which is also on the National Cycle Network.

Beattock Station Action Group, a group of dedicated residents and community representatives, has campaigned for the reopening of the station since it was formed in 2012.

The group has carried out high-level lobbying of politicians, transport groups and rail companies, together with fundraising in its communities. It surveyed nearly 650 local people, and the responses were overwhelmingly in favour of reopening Beattock Station.

Chairman Martin Brown said: “A station at Beattock would give so many opportunities to our communities. It’s ideally placed to become a park and ride, or Parkway, station. The local community owns land next to the station that could be used for off-street parking. This makes Beattock an excellent option for people from the Dumfries area travelling northwards.

“Reopening the station would be straightforward. There’s no need for any track or signalling changes. One platform is still there and there’s plenty of room for a new platform on the up line track and for a ramped footbridge.”

With the support of MP David Mundell and three MSPs the group has made Beattock’s case to the Scottish Government for funding to bring the station back into use.

“Ever since I was first elected as a South Scotland MSP in 2011, I have thrown my support behind the campaign to re-open Beattock Station.

“Martin and the other members of the Beattock Station Action Group are extremely well organised and have run a very effective campaign – even securing funding from local businesses and others to work with SWestrans to undertake a feasibility study.

“At the moment, trains speed past Beattock on the largest stretch of rail without a stop in the whole UK. There is no doubt in my mind it could once again become an essential stop on the West Coast Main Line – with its place in history and literature, it has considerable tourist potential. It would also be an excellent stop off point for walkers keen to explore the beautiful Southern Uplands and the Grey Mare’s Tail.

“The recent Dumfries and Galloway Transport Summit has shone a light on the region’s transport infrastructure and I hope that we get things moving. With money for capital projects tight it will always be a difficult task, but the Borders Railway shows just how successful such projects can be – and we don’t even need to lay any new track!”
(Joan McAlpine MSP for South Scotland)

The campaign has gathered further momentum by joining forces with the regional transport partnership, SWestrans, to commission an expert pre-appraisal report into improving transport links in the area.

Local residents, businesses and community groups contributed towards the cost of report because this is the only way that the Scottish Government will fund the reopening of the station.

The report, which is being carried out by transport specialists Peter Brett Associates, will be published in the next few weeks.