The campaign to extend the Borders Railway received a major boost today as the UK Government announced its backing for a feasibility study.
The 30-mile Edinburgh-Tweedbank route opened in 2015 but calls for it to be stretched a further 18 miles to Hawick have grown in recent years, alongside the eventual aim of extending the line to Carlisle.
Campaigners claim that Hawick drastically lost out when the original 98-mile Waverley line from Edinburgh to Carlisle was closed in 1969.
Now Scottish secretary David Mundell has confirmed his government’s support for a feasibility study on the matter, in a letter to MP John Lamont.
It matches the Scottish Government’s existing commitment to extending the route, having recently published the Borders Transport Corridor Study, giving two potential routes for extending the line.
“We need to improve transport links across the whole of the Borders and extending the Borders Railway is part of this,” Mr Lamont told the BBC.
“A full feasibility study will look in detail at the costs and benefits of bringing the railway to Hawick, Newcastleton and on to Carlisle.
“I’d expect this to look at things like impact on businesses, jobs and tourism as well as the implications of getting freight off our roads.”
In a letter sent to the Secretary of State for Scotland, Christine Grahame MSP asked when the UK Government would undertake an appraisal for the line south of the Scottish Border. Until then, a full appraisal in Scotland could not proceed.
Ms Grahame said: “The Borders Railway has been a fantastic success - boosting the economy, leading to new house building and supporting tourism in the region.
“My constituents will significantly benefit from any welcome extension to the existing Borders Railway, and I am sure they will welcome the news of a feasibility study into the benefits of extending the railway to Hawick, Newcastleton and Carlisle.
“The SNP has always backed a feasibility study for the Borders Railway extension, and has made a significant investment in the economic development of the Scottish Borders since being in Government.
“I am pleased that the Tories are now supportive of the Borders Railway line, given that they thought the money on the railway could be better spent, but times and views do thankfully change.”