Steam trains will run on the Borders Railway, and Tweedbank is to be the site for the permanent home of the Great Tapestry of Scotland.
These announcements were made by First Minister Alex Salmond during a visit to Tweedbank yesterday (Wednesday).
Mr Salmond said the route could become one of the “must-see tourist lines in Europe” and announced that a feasibility study will look at how it could transform the tourism potential of the Borders.
The study will examine tourist opportunities from any future development of the line, including the potential for a turntable and the creation of a permanent home at Tweedbank station for the Great Tapestry of Scotland.
Mr Salmond said: “The feasibility study is not about if this is going to happen, it will say how this will happen – the Borders Railway will open next year, and steam trains will run next year, and this Great Tapestry centre will be built and move this project on to fulfil its potential.”
The first train will run on September 6 next year, with the visitor centre opened in 2016.
Mr Salmond added: “For commuters and tourists alike, the reopened line will provide opportunities to enjoy the many fantastic attractions and experiences on offer in the Borders.
“We can expect the Scottish economy to benefit by tens of millions of pounds from the regular train line.
“The feasibility study will look at how the area can benefit from the railway. With a dedicated tourist service and the attraction of the Great Tapestry of Scotland to be based at Tweedbank, more people than ever will get to visit and enjoy Scotland’s stunning Borders.”
A train will be covered in special livery advertising the tourist potential of the Borders and the station at Galashiels will be extended to accommodate longer tourist trains.
Council leader David Parker said: “The Scottish Government’s commitment to steam and charter trains is extremely welcome and will be a fantastic boost to the Borders economy.
“The First Minister’s pledge to work jointly with the council to deliver the Great Tapestry of Scotland visitor centre and other improvements is fantastic news.
“This underlines the very substantial support that the Scottish Government have shown to the Borders Railway project.”
Catherine Maxwell Stuart, tourism business representative on the Scottish Borders Community Planning Partnership, added: “The Borders Railway offers a fantastic opportunity for local tourism businesses to attract new visitors to the area and to offer them exciting, new experiences.
“The Scottish Borders has so much to offer visitors, whether they are here for a day, or for a week.
“I am sure that this new link from the heart of the city to the heart of Scott’s Country will be a catalyst for our local tourism sector, with benefits rolling out across much of the area.”
Responding to the announcement, Mike Cantlay, chairman of VisitScotland said: “We are excited that we are moving ever closer to the launch of this magnificent new line and will be working with partners over the coming months to ensure the tourism potential of the Borders Railway is fully realised, encouraging visitors to explore yet more of Scotland’s beautiful urban and rural landscapes.”