The major tourism boost the recently restored rail links to Edinburgh has brought the Borders has sparked off renewed demands for direct trains between Lanark and the capital.
These services - up to eight a day at one time - last ran in the mid-Sixties before being axed on economic grounds.
Now a new campaign has been launched to persuade the Scottish Government, ScotRail and Network Rail that, in 2016, it would be well worth restoring the 35 mile direct link - and it could all be done at a small fraction of the £294m the Borders project cost.
A Facebook debate is being started by Lanark Community Council member Leslie Reid to gauge public support for the service’s restoration through re-building the short spur that once took Lanark trains directly onto the West Coast mainline at Cleghorn for onward travel to Edinburgh.
The cost of building this few hundred yards of track would obviously be far lower than the 30 miles of new track the Borders railway required - but there are snags.
Since the Sixties there have been three new homes built on the land the spur used to run through; there would also be the problem of adjusting the signalling to accommodate the extra Lanark services joining an already very busy stretch of line.
As council chairman Frank Gunning commented: “I was stuck in my car at the Cleghorn Level Crossing for ages the other day and saw SEVEN trains go through in that time. I actually saw the same train TWICE, the Glasgow train heading for Lanark and then it coming back in the opposite direction!”
However, he went on to say that the signalling might not be the crucial issue.
“What we have to establish is that there would be enough people using the new service to make it viable. Because of city house prices, a lot of people have moved out to live in Lanark but commute to Glasgow every day. I think we would see an influx of residents from the Edinburgh area if there was a direct service between Lanark and the capital and that would be a good thing for our economy.”
The council vice-chairman Leonard Gray said: “Essentially what we need to do first is to draw up a proper business case to put to them. We can’t just go to them and say We need a new line. We have to prove to them that creating the new link and running the services would be a worthwhile project.”
A ScotRail spokesman said: “For the longer term, ScotRail would be willing to explore the demand for a direct service which would assist in identifying a business case towards a possible service.”