That was a week that was…

The last week in March started very amicably at the Community Council meeting. We were joined at our usual venue in the Harry Smith Centre by Claudia Beamish MSP and Councillor Ralph Barker. They provided the Community Council with an appraisal of the current progress on plan to re-establish the direct rail link from Lanark to Edinburgh and the potential for the Community Council, in collaboration with the 15 other Community Councils in Clydesdale, to assess and galvanise local interest in – and assess the desire for - such a link.

But let’s leave the start of the week for a moment.

The week ended with a phone call to Sylvia Russell, Chair of the Development Trust, from one of the 15 assorted full-time employees of companies and organisations, each in some way or another associated with and/or in charge of Lanark train station and each, apparently, with the power to veto any proposal should their own organisation/interest group be concerned about any single aspect of the project.

The whole tedious process which, had it been brought to a successful conclusion, would have enabled the Development Trust to decorate a newly refurbished waiting room at the station. The décor would have displayed the history of transport through the millennia in the Lanark area, and would thus have provided a comfortable and interesting waiting-room for local rail travellers to loiter in when their train is late or cancelled.

That phone call to Sylvia was simply to advise her that the Development Trust were required to guarantee that whenever the completed waiting room was open and in use, a volunteer would be there manning it, which the Development Trust are unable to do.

The initial concept of this project was born many years ago when one gentleman, representing one of the dozens of organisations who seem to control the railway, addressed the Rotary Club of Lanark to persuade them to “Adopt a Station”.

The Development Trust, in which many members of the Rotary Club reside, picked up this ball some two years ago, initially when they commissioned some very attractive display boards based on the design of the High Street banners. They should have learned their lesson then when, after only six-months of wrangling and with as few as only six railway organisations to be consulted and grovelled to, permission was eventually received.

Ernie Romer, who before he became Lanark’s answer to Alan Titmarsh earned a living as a joiner, is a Development Trust member and was willing to mount these display boards for free but, after several more meetings with several more officials, it became apparent that only a team of highly skilled and railway approved carpenters, capable of working on a station platform without falling in front of a train, could do the work. Said work was duly done, at a cost to the Development Trust of £600.

Whatever, these display boards (and a coat of paint over the building) have been a great success and have made the station a much more attractive and welcoming sight, especially for any tourist travelling to enjoy the delights Lanark has to offer (don’t laugh, there are many and not just in Lanimer Week).

Heartened by this wee success, the Development Trust set about doing what it says on the tin (developing and trusting) and entered in negotiation with the United Nations (or so it seemed) to put an old, shabby and rotting waiting room at the station into service, for the benefit of the travelling public.

Arrangements were made by one railway organisation for the Development Trust to appeal to two further heritage railway organisations for the funding required to pay all the other railway organisations who would manage, plan and contract the work.

There are two adjacent rooms on platform one of the station and it made sense to the railway consortium, to refurbish both at the same time and the second of these was offered to the local railway modelling club who would use it for storage purposes only. This club already occupy the entirety of platform two on the station in which they build their model displays in, in preparation for attending - and presumably competing – in exhibitions with them.  

Now let’s pick up the end of the week again!

That Monday meeting of the Community Council had started the week off in a frenzy of energy and confidence, perhaps even the hope that the Community Council might indeed be able to enthuse and galvanise the people of Clydesdale into supporting a campaign to demand the re-establishment of our Edinburgh rail link and, by sheer weight of numbers, convince the politicians and professionals that the people who matter, the population of Clydesdale really do want – and for a multiplicity of reasons need – to re-establish the link.

By the end of the week though, I had come to realise that convincing the politicians and parliaments of the population’s preferences would be the easy part and might even take less than a decade to achieve. For example one single Facebook post by our V-C Leonard Gray on Tuesday had garnered over one thousand likes by Thursday combined with many an interesting emoji to boot.

The hard part will be after the go-ahead is given! Then, when the army of railway professionals all get together in a suitably large venue for a working lunch and begin to prepare the process to proceed.

The more I thought about it, the more I decided that the smart thing to do would be to create a huge archive file of everything relevant to the railway link project and hand it over to my youngest grandson to progress. That is not as daft a notion as you might think! My recent experience with the railway regarding the waiting room refurb has taught me a thing or three about the railway motus operandi, and I have learned enough to know  that the my grandson will be in possession of his very own South Lanarkshire Council (if it still exists) senior citizen concessionary travel card long before they have even agreed on a route for the new link, and by that time anyway, all matters relating to rail travel will be handled by pre-programmed robots.

But then again, I’m just venting and, if you think I’m a tad over the top, don’t even think about asking Sylvia, “How’s it gaun, byraway?” What a way to run a railway!

Stop Press! – Latest info from railway organisational biomass is that the refurbishment will go ahead and both rooms on platform one, the entirety of platform two, will be occupied by the model railway club. How long will it be before they take over the whole thing and just run the railway? Can’t see them doing much worse! They have more trains and tracks! I can’t laugh for crying!

PS: Get yourself on to Facebook. Like Leonard’s post about the Edinburgh link Campaign. Or start one of your own, or message me here at The Lanark Website. Let’s overwhelm them. Let’s make us count.


Frank Gunning shares his views on various local issues in his Let's Be Frank column.