Archives for category: Demographics

When I was young there were old people; lots of them. My grandparents generation were a funny lot; they’d been through a couple of world wars and a great depression; they dressed in tweed and plus fours, wore hats and pearls, and generally stuck within rigid gender boundaries. Barring a few eccentricities being old was clearly defined and meant something much more than the number of years they’d been on planet earth.

Though I loved the older members of my own family, and knew plenty of their friends too, as a teenager and beyond it struck me that they really were from another world. They had difficulty empathising with my teenage angst and the rights of passage through which I passed. They always asked remarkably strange questions about my way of life and made observations which frequently left me cringing. Their idea of “looks nice on you” and mine were diametrically opposed. They spoke about “courting” and “walking out” and assumed that every boy or girl you brought home would signal wedding bells.

What becomes apparent as I look through my family history is that life before the Second World War was very different. You were a child, then you were an adult. You got a job, got married and had children. In that order. Those were the rights of passage that my grandparents knew. Life was all very formal. They didn’t have teenage years of pop music, getting pi**ed in friends back gardens, going to gigs, teenage sects, university, years out, flat shares, cohabitation, s**** experimentation, cr*p tv and all the shenanigans that fills the lives of fifteen to thirty year olds these days. They just didn’t share that and it was all too obvious.

However our parents did and as I watch their generation, now grandparents themselves, I don’t see them making the same basic errors; they’re much more in tune with their grandchildren and the lives they lead. In many ways that is a surprise as my nieces and nephews are growing up in the world of social media the potential of which makes me look back on my own teens and shudder at the social disasters I would probably have exposed myself to. But those are just different pieces needed to play the game; in essentials the game is the same.

And though that generation are now well in their sixties and seventies those concepts are still fresh and relevant; they get where young people are coming from and if they’ve bought into tech, so much better still. Our parents could be mods or rockers; they knew about “being careful”; they screamed at pop stars and wallowed in muddy fields wearing next to nothing. When they had their clothes on they were bang on trend. The language may be different but they get it and that’s all for the good.

I can’t imagine now that the younger generations look upon their elders with the same combination of fear, awe and bewilderment that I once did. For them; old people don’t really exist; of course there are a lot of people who’ve been around much, much longer but no real old people with buttonholes and boiled sweets. I wonder if my nieces and nephews would agree with that? Maybe I should ask them… Talk to the younger generation? Grumble, humph.

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Whatever happened to Generation X?

As I take a look around at those in power and the rising stars of the future be it in politics or business, on a national scale or within my own workplace, I see a yawning generational chasm occupied by just a few lonely voices where my age cohort should be out in force.

It feels like my generation has been skipped; late to the party, missed out on all the good bits. We’re absent from the table when the cakes are being handed round. Most of my school friends dropped off the conventional career ladder long ago and I’ll soon be joining them. Where did Generation X go wrong?

For those who don’t already know, Generation X are the kids who were born between the mid 60’s and mid 80’s. We’re currently in our thirties and forties. Those older than us are the Baby-Boomers and those younger are the Millenials.

About now we should have been expecting to see the bulk of power and capital passing into our hands as the Boomers retired but it hasn’t happened. To me it feels like we’ve been by-passed. True enough, politically, all three major party leaders are early X’ers and what a sorry bunch they are in the great scheme of things. I suspect that by this time next year they’ll all be gone and odds are that their replacements will come once more from the older generation, or even the younger; a safe pair of hands or a breath of fresh air.

But why did it come to this? What happened to us and why are we so disorganised and seemingly lost in the world? It all comes down to history.

Generation X grew up during the seventies and eighties. These were our most formative years when the ideas that we absorbed shaped our futures. In childhood we learn our basic lessons and are forever dominated by the things which play on our minds most and for us as a group, that was the bomb.

It may not seem such an obvious thing to those who were over ten years old in 1970; or indeed to ourselves, but we grew up in the era of ‘mutually assured destruction’. We were children safe in the knowledge that we could all be annihilated in the blink of an eye; we were too young to understand the politics, the why’s and wherefores. All we had were adults talking darkly about ‘four minute warnings’ and ‘fallout shelters’, and how if we were lucky we’d be vapourised. We rehearsed for it at primary school and dug play nuclear shelters in the garden. We dutifully read our set English texts: On the beach, Z for Zachariah, Adam’s Ark… but they didn’t prepare us for life; they prepared us for death.

The end of the world was real and imminent from my earliest consciousness, but speaking to older generations now, I know that it didn’t register with them in anything like the same way; they all watched the news of course whereas we just had the fear.

Plenty of us watched Threads though; and those that didn’t heard about it at school the next day.

And this is the problem for Generation X. Most of us didn’t expect to ever be in our thirties and forties; or at least if we did it would be in a world so far removed from that we knew that it was hardly worth preparing for. The survivors were the ones going blind up on Curbar Edge. What good would education and wealth be to us there? We might just as well get drunk.

So we played like there was no tomorrow, enjoying ourselves while we could. We never studied too hard preferring instead a life of binge drinking, drugs, cheap sex and illegal raves.

Then, twenty-five years ago the wall came down and everything changed. We found ourselves wondering what to do with our lives. We were never prepared for that and all of a sudden we were expected to adapt to a new reality. Peace.

We still lived our lives of self-gratification, quick credit and short-termism because that’s what our formative years had taught us to do. We didn’t bother with pensions and have the lowest voting turnout of any generation, ever.

Now most of us have debts up to our eyebrows; mine was the first year to get student loans (albeit modest by today’s standards). Those of us who didn’t end our lives in crack dens finished school and graduated into a ruthless boom and bust economy which sapped our spirits before we even got going.

We mortgaged ourselves up to the hilt to try and get on the housing ladder whilst still being in that dangerous mind-set that tomorrow would never come. Now here we are; tomorrow has come and there’s another long recession partly of our own making. We’re broken and shell-shocked as we lose the lives we’d gained once we belatedly realised we needed to work hard. At the same time we find ourselves as the sandwich generation having to care for both our parents and our children simultaneously. What a mess.

Meanwhile the following generation have come along with their work hard, play hard attitude and wonderful self-assurance. I don’t pretend life is easy for them at the moment but they do seem so much better prepared for it. They take life seriously and care about their future. The first of them are just entering their thirties and yet they’ve already produced social and political commentators, entrepreneurs and thinkers the like of which have rarely been seen before. Generation X are struggling to find our feet; meanwhile the Millenials have already found theirs and started walking.

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These days I live and work in the suburbs about half an hour’s train ride from Central London. As a consequence I only find myself “in town” once or twice a month which gives an interval just long enough for me to observe the changes. I used to enjoy going into London but nowadays I always come away feeling like the place has died a little since last time I was there.

The problem is not, as with so many places, a lack of money; I think it’s the opposite. Too much money. Over the last few years there has been a huge influx of Russian and far-eastern capital. This has coincided with many of the Central London land-leases coming up for renewal and now so much of the city centre is seeing wonderful atmospheric little streets and neighbourhoods ripped apart and disfigured by huge glitzy and expensive developments that can only be afforded by the super-rich.

The places where I used to go after work are disappearing. These are the places where the quirky people, the writers, artists and thespians went. Indeed these are the places where the creatives and the innovators exchanged their ideas and developed new technologies; the places where every young newcomer and student would go to be part of the great London experience. They are fast disappearing to satisfy the immense appetite for development opportunities for the super-rich. Cool London is being crushed by a great golden steamroller.

And I’m sorry to say the super-rich are never cool. Ever. To be cool; to lead in fashion and industry you have to improvise and try the untried. If you can afford whatever you want, whenever you want it, you never need to do this; you follow fashion rather than shaping it. Cool is for the upcoming lower and middle classes. And these groups now find themselves locked out of London entirely by astronomical prices. London was always expensive; expensive but manageable. Now it’s becoming out of reach to all but the very richest.

I watch with sadness as the little nooks and crannies I used to know so well in Soho are trampled over by big money. Every time I go there I find another block where I sheltered from the rain or ate a late-night kebab has gone and been replaced by a new development of executive apartments. The sex workers and the gay scene seem to be beaten back at every turn; often with the assistance of the authorities. Their workplaces and venues closing down in the face of rocketing rents and “gentrification”. Other neighbourhoods are experiencing similar destruction as the groups that gave them their image are forced out by people who think you can buy that image through an address.

In my twenties London was the only place to be and I enjoyed it. I lived in hovels all over the city: Bayswater; St John’s Wood, Brixton and New Cross before moving out to the suburbs in search of more space. Back then my most fashionable peers were hanging out in Dalston and Hoxton. I went to some brilliant house parties there. It was a place they could afford; they made it trendy which then priced their successors out. Previous generations did the same with Islington and Notting Hill. Now it seems there is nowhere left to go.

But there is. Now I mix with people who have children in their late teens and twenties. Those kids still go off to university and do all the things we did and like us they want to go to the most fashionable and vibrant places. There is a new up and coming place where they all seem so keen to go and live. A new place to colonise and make fashionable. What is the name of this latest miracle neighbourhood? It’s called Manchester.

We’ve seen it before of course. Back in the early nineties Manchester was the place to be for its music scene but nobody barring a few diehard ‘Roses fans actually wanted to move there. Most of those bands came down to London as soon as they found fame. But this time it feels different. There doesn’t appear to be any discernible musical movement behind this change. It was the BBC going there that seemed to start the move; other media companies have followed taking waves of young trendies with them. As they decide to stay on and make their lives there in the sort of flats and localities they could never dream of affording in London, they will develop the culture and encourage more to follow and Manchester will boom. Why would anyone come to London when you can’t afford to live here? The city where tacky gold-plated identikit champagne bars are replacing the fabulous, dingy little music venues, comedy clubs and late-night cafés so beloved of previous generations?

I hope, as a northerner of sorts, that Manchester’s boom will spread to neighbouring cities and that transport investment happens to back it up. There is so much potential up there that has just been sneered at by southerners for too long. It would be good to see the boot on the other foot at last.

As for me? As a forty something I have a growing desire to leave London. It’s lost its buzz. It isn’t what it once was (I bet every generation says that), but now to my surprise I see my peers leaving too. They go to get better schools for their children and cheaper offices for their start-ups. Many only make it to Cambridge or Brighton but even so they have left London and moved elsewhere. Their places taken by yet more rich investors with bursting pockets on a quest for gold-plated, diamond encrusted, ostentatious naffness.

London will always be a world city but it is fast detaching itself from the nation that made it.

 

UKIP have won council seats right across the country in yesterday’s election. They’ve had a lot of coverage and undoubtedly many people will have voted for them as a protest against mainstream parties which are seen as detached and unable to provide solutions to the problems we face, but this is not the whole story. Whilst there are legitimate concerns with their language and policies and certainly several of their candidates have not covered themselves in glory, they are still winning votes and fulfilling a genuine role in UK democracy. 

It should be no great surprise that UKIP have gained most of their seats in unfashionable parts of rural England nor should they be thought of particularly as a protest party for their success in such areas. The anti-EU rhetoric and opposition to large scale immigration have certainly been popular but these are not the only reasons for their advancement; it’s just as likely that they have won support because they’ve filled a glaring gap in the political spectrum and energised a new group of activists. 

UKIP won sixteen seats on Lincolnshire County Council becoming the official opposition. Fourteen of these seats are in the east of the county remote from major cities and transport links. A similar pattern seems to have emerged in Norfolk. They have won in the seaside resorts, marshes and fens where seasonal work and labour intensive agri-businesses are the major employers in the local economy; in small, isolated market towns that are off the beaten track and dispersed villages of nineteenth century red brick farm houses. It’s the countryside but it’s not picturesque in the traditional sense though it’s often eerily beautiful with wide-open spaces and big skies. Services are few and far between and cuts are felt deeply. The price of petrol is a huge issue here as the car is an essential part of life and if you don’t have one you’re cut off from the world. Wind farms are springing up everywhere with little perceived benefit to the local community. Welcome to the rural fringe. 

UKIP have spoken to a large group of people who hitherto haven’t really had their own party. In Scotland and Wales these votes would be swept up by Nationalists but in peripheral English regions they’re there for the taking. These are the rural working class who have for various historic reasons such as dispersed communities and lack of unionisation, never really engaged with the Labour movement and have been too remote from Labour heartlands to have been noticed. Voters who may have previously considered the Liberal Democrats and Greens, but aren’t that right-on and environmentally concerned. Most of the people voting UKIP are socially conservative and will traditionally have given their votes to the Conservative Party yet at a time when that party seems more elitist and metropolitan than ever, the working-class “common sense” rural voter can see little to keep them loyal to a party which has only really ever been the least bad option. These are not the ruling classes. They’ve always been here and they’ve always felt the way they do yet hitherto there hasn’t been a party which really reflected their beliefs.                                                                                                                       

If UKIP are to become a major player in British politics they, like other parties, must cultivate heartland areas and what we have seen in this election may be the first signs of an establishing powerbase. To dismiss them as clowns and fruit-cakes is unfair and will only serve to galvanise all those supporters who are glad to finally have a party to vote for with enthusiasm and who have never felt as if their concerns have been taken seriously before. Maybe the comparisons with the progress the SNP has made in Scotland in the last twenty years aren’t so far-fetched. This is a very interesting time for British political diversity and could yet enrich our democracy.

 

I spent much of last weekend flicking through old family papers and photographs. I enjoy genealogy. Finding out where I came from, what my ancestors did and what happened to them is fascinating but on this occasion I wasn’t really looking for anything new just re-treading old ground.

Most of the pictures I was looking at were from the first half of the twentieth century; largely pre first world war. We were one of those relatively fortunate families for whom the ravages of that war brought no immediate losses with the menfolk all being too old, too young or down a coal mine. That said the photographs tell a tale of what by the standards of the day was a fairly middle class family. They weren’t rich but they weren’t poor either. Those in mining were mostly pit deputies and overmen; joiners or other skilled workers. Chapel was big. The women wore beautiful long skirts and elaborate blouses with their hair in tight buns. The men wore suits with stiff collars and most sported bushy moustaches; those that didn’t had mischievous smirks and “reputations” within the family. A stifled laugh here and a twinkle in the eye there lend a beautiful humanity to long dead relatives in otherwise formal poses.

When these pictures were taken, the extended family seemed to be concentrated in a very limited geographical area. All lived within a few miles of each other and the families were large. As the century progressed some of those Edwardian children dispersed right round the country moving out to other areas to explore opportunities away from the mines and making use of readily available transport. Those sailor-suited boys and the girls with their smocks, boots and plaits went on to work in chemicals, aerospace, nursing, teaching and engineering. They were the people who created the world we have now.

I met a few of these people when I was very young. They were extremely elderly and quite scary to a small child. Their first names and those of their generational peers were a byword for geriatric frailty. Yet here they were in their childhood or in their physical prime; proud and vital; smiling at the camera. What were they thinking? What jokes were they cracking? What were their hopes and dreams? So much is hinted at by a look in the eye frozen for posterity. The grey haired veterans bent double with their sticks are trapped in my own memory; to my nephews they’ll be happy, healthy and sepia framed forever in the prime of life.

Of course for many of these the prime of life is as far as they ever got. A shocking amount didn’t live beyond my age, failing to survive their twenties and thirties. Why? They didn’t look sickly. They didn’t go to war. What happened? Were they taken by the sort of random conditions which still claim lives today or were they victims of relatively trivial illnesses which in our own time would have merely resulted in a couple of weeks off work? Were they victims of injuries and illnesses that are now routinely repaired by the NHS, or prevented by health and safety culture? How many of those women died in childbirth? In my experience these are usually recorded as such along with the child but not in these cases.

Infant death and death in childbirth were givens. But what causes a healthy 23 year old to die in peacetime? What causes several healthy twenty and thirty something’s from the same extended family to die over a twenty year period?

At the other end of the spectrum we look at the man who died at 51 and think he had a good life. Fifty-one. The “elderly” were dropping off in their 50’s. A hundred years ago 60 was considered a good age. When you imagine all the illnesses and conditions that we routinely treat nowadays is it any wonder?

Had I been born a hundred years previously I would almost certainly have fallen in my thirties when my gender dysphoria reached its climax untreated, assuming I had survived my childhood which in my case was fairly unlikely. How many of my contemporaries would have expired through various conditions and injuries? How many of us would have succumbed to illnesses we never even had due to vaccination and preventative treatment? What free healthcare was available was generally limited to wage earners in a few selected industries, but not their spouses or dependants, or by friendly societies where they existed.

This was only a hundred years ago. Two or three generations. It wasn’t a backward society by any means. I would have met some of these people had they survived to a modern life expectancy. This is the value of genealogy. It makes us understand how lucky we really are.

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For most of the last thirty years we have been told by the government that we should maintain close family ties and support our parents and grandparents in their old age rather than allowing them to become a burden on the state. This, along with stable (heterosexual of course) marriage, is usually referred to as “traditional family values”. At the same time governments have told us that if we can’t find a job we should move to where we can; assuming we have the skills of course. For many of us these two aspirations are contradictory. If we do one, we can’t do the other. 

As of April 1st, those council and housing association tenants claiming housing benefit from the state for their living accommodation are subject to what is now commonly known as the “bedroom tax”. Actually it’s not a tax at all; it’s a benefit cut, but to those affected the result is the same. Tenants will lose money for every spare room that their council deems them to have. Each adult or couple is entitled to one room but children under sixteen must share if they are of the same sex (don’t get me started on gender expression at this point!) and those under ten whatever their sex. Separated parents will not be allowed to keep a room for their child to visit; nor will it be possible to keep a room for a child who is away studying. 

Of course, as with so much in this country, the “bedroom tax” was dreamt up by political advisers who live and work in London. Down here there are huge numbers of one-bedroom properties and ample public transport connecting them together. Unfortunately this situation does not extend much beyond the M25. In most provincial towns and cities one bedroom properties are few and far between. Land is cheaper and there was never any need to build them in such large amounts. Now people will be priced out of larger houses as incomes outside London are much lower, yet there are less one-bedroom properties for them to move into. The result will be increased homelessness, empty houses, dispersed families and overcrowding as children share rooms and make way for lodgers; as a consequence of all this there will be a likely increase in domestic violence and child abuse as well as an increased birth rate. This has all happened before during the industrial revolution. 

Through the late twentieth century we’ve lost sight of the risks that serious, widespread overcrowding brings as we’d largely eradicated it. It is not just a problem for those who have the misfortune to live in those conditions; it’s a problem for all of us. Infections and diseases spread like wildfire in cold, damp and overcrowded conditions. The prevalence of air-conditioning in our modern trains and buildings will ensure that the overall health of the nation will take a tumble with consequent effects on the wider economy through sickness absence and reduced productivity. 

Meanwhile in London; more and more studios and one-bedroom properties are springing up and they’re getting smaller and smaller. Often they are marketed as “executive” or “luxury” but to me they look like the sink estates of the future. These properties also inevitably lack storage space; few new flats inside the M25 have any storage areas – a luxury you may think – but fairly crucial if you want such basics as an ironing board, a mop and bucket, a broomstick and a clothes horse. These usually have to live in the bathroom and kitchen where they become dangerous obstacles. Most flats do not have a garden so there is no drying space for clothes leading to damp within the building (especially in winter) or the need for a washer-dryer; either way heating and electricity bills will increase accordingly and as we all know electricity is expensive. In these conditions mould and condensation become problematic and have a negative effect on our health. 

The result of the bedroom tax here will see older people living in the cold, damp upstairs flats that they had to move to when their children left, struggling to store the necessary items to keep themselves clean and safe. They won’t be able to have family members to stay so the NHS/DSS will have to step in and help. People of all ages will need to relocate to unfamiliar areas away from friends, families and the social networks that they rely on. 

Besides the bedroom tax, there is a clear need now to set stringent standards in housing quality. It would be good to see the reintroduction of a reasonably generous minimum floor area and designated bedrooms should also have a minimum size suitable to accommodate a king size double bed, wardrobe and chest of drawers with sufficient space to walk around them. Every new property should come with a storage cupboard of sufficient size to accommodate the household necessities; and if no drying space is available then there ought to be sufficient space to have a proper electric dryer alongside the other necessary appliances. Dividing walls between neighbouring flats should be solid and sound proofed; and all rooms, particularly bathrooms and kitchens should have an opening external window. 

Provision of housing should also be more carefully planned. Market forces are not necessarily best in this area; instead social housing ought to be specified according to need and then built by private firms within the prescribed guidelines. One, two and three bed properties need to be constructed in numbers proportionate to existing projected demographic requirements rather than endless executive studio apartments with high maintenance fees which will never see an executive within their design life. With these rules in place and a commitment to demolish older properties which don’t conform I believe that overall standards of living will be improved immeasurably.

 

It’s been fifty years since the Beeching report came out recommending closure of large swathes of the British railway network. Forty years since the last major closures took place. Over 5,000 route miles were closed along with over 2,000 stations. A handful of lines recommended for closure were reprieved but some others that weren’t on the initial list were also closed. At the time it seemed to be part of an inexorable run-down of a transport mode that had had its day. The Beeching report wasn’t all negative of course; it recommended wide-spread electrification of remaining main lines and proposed a revolution in freight transportation with the introduction of intermodal container trains and merry-go-round coal trains serving collieries and power stations. But it’s the closures we remember. 

Since that time the demographics of this country have changed enormously. Booming cities – particularly London – have caused extra demand for property and rising prices have forced an increasingly wealthy and car-owning population to look further afield for places to live. They’ve moved out beyond the green belts into rural suburbs where they could have a garage, a garden and a spare room. Better roads have improved the daily commute and once small insignificant towns and villages in the Home Counties have turned into sprawling dormitory settlements. As the baby-boomers had their children in the late sixties and seventies the population multiplied and our towns and cities grew. Changing lifestyles see those children living alone well into their thirties before settling down whilst their parents increasingly separate and boost the demand for housing further. Yes there has been immigration as well. In short there are over 50% more households today than there were in 1963 and most of that increase has been accommodated in housing stock built on green-field land. Almost every part of Britain has been affected by this but some places much more than others. 

Society is changing too. When I was growing up there was only one thing every seventeen year-old wanted to own; one rite of passage to adulthood. We worked every hour we could and squirrelled away as much money as possible with one objective: our first car. In my case it was a 1978 Austin Allegro in Royal Blue with rusty patches. I painted the wheels pink (yes really). It was my pride and joy but it failed its MOT before I could make much use of it and I was saving again. Things are different now. Ask a teenager what they want and you’re more likely to be told about the latest fad of technology. Less often will a car be first on the list. For them the cost of insurance is absolutely prohibitive and the attraction of technology is greater – technology they can’t use whilst they’re driving of course… and that’s where the train comes in. 

We have, I believe, now passed what is referred to as “peak car” where the greatest number of cars was in regular use. Insurance and fuel costs make car travel ever more expensive for most people and with fewer teenagers even bothering to learn to drive it’s likely that road use will diminish steadily. 

And let’s be honest. Today’s railway is really rather good. We can pick faults – it’s a British national hobby picking faults with our railway: trains are dirty with noisy under floor engines; they’re late and unreliable in adverse weather; they’re overcrowded; they’re expensive. When there are no problems they’re also fast, frequent and convenient; much more so than back in the sixties. I remember reading an account by a railway photographer who having taken a picture of an express train, dismantled his camera, got in the car and drove several miles up country roads, reassembled his camera and waited to take a picture of the same express train. Trains are much quicker than that these days; even the slow ones. Many of those lines had three or four trains a day; they were pulled by beautiful but grossly inefficient steam engines; they had unheated, unlit carriages and at least three crew members facilitating the conveyance of small number of passengers. We love riding on those trains now but imagine if you had to do it daily? It’s no wonder our parents rushed out and bought their Ford Anglias. Today we generally find our trains run at least hourly and even a 1980’s Sprinter train offers a standard of warmth and comfort way in excess of those wooden carriages. 

So where to now? That’s a literal as well as a metaphorical question as I believe we’re on the verge of a “Beeching roll-back”. We’ll never return to the whole network that Dr Beeching inherited. The majority of the closures were warranted. They included pointless duplications and wildly optimistic branch lines; vestiges of completely unregulated nineteenth century private-enterprise and competition. Many have been totally obliterated by subsequent development. However the social and geographical changes i’ve outlined will bring immense pressure to provide better public transport in certain areas. Some of these will involve reopening rail routes – particularly in south-east England – where line closures which seemed entirely justified back in 1963 but subsequent percentage population growth in three figures would probably now merit a half-hourly service to London; towns such as Cranleigh and Hailsham. Elsewhere there are country towns which have long stagnated since their railway closed and which will now be looking with apprehension towards the post peak-car era. In Galashiels in the Scottish Borders things are already changing. 

The Borders Railway scheme is a great psychological step forward for the cause of railway reopening. Reopened railways have been joining the network sporadically for twenty years. However up until now they’ve either been in high population density areas on unobstructed track beds or heritage lines opened gradually by valiant groups of enthusiasts. The Borders Line is different. It involves rebuilding thirty miles of track to a relatively small town through open countryside with little intermediate population. At the same time it has required the removal of numerous properties including a block of flats and the realignment of A roads. These were things which were absolutely unthinkable even ten years ago. Now it’s all changed. When this route is added to the national network and seen to be successful, other towns will begin to realise that if Galashiels can have thirty miles of track, then they can justify ten – and the trains will start to return.