The Conservative MP for Dumfriesshire, Clydesdale and Tweeddale – the Scottish constituency closest to Carlisle – has pledged to work with the Scottish Government to deliver the SNP’s manifesto pledge to explore extending the recently re-opened railway line to England.
His commitment is part of a new drive to foster more “collegiate” relations with the Scottish Government, which was reduced to a minority in the recent Scottish election, following the turbulent years of the SNP majority and the independence campaign.
In a speech in Edinburgh, Mr Mundell said: “Scotland needs good transport links to thrive.
“During the election, the First Minister stated her commitment of exploring the feasibility of extending the Borders Railway to Carlisle.
“Patently, such a development would require cross-border working and partnership. I am ready to work with the Scottish Government on this issue, as they develop their plans and thinking.”
He added: “I think it is a realistic prospect. It obviously requires considerable work in terms of ensuring that the route is identified.
“There are complexities because, obviously, it crosses a border and the legislation and rules required to create a railway in England are slightly different from those in Scotland.
“But I think everyone is of a mind that it should be done and the funding obviously is identified.
“I think it is perfectly do-able and I think for communities like Hawick it will make a major difference. It’s also got huge potential in the south to take traffic off the roads. I have committed to play my part.” The Borders Railway was officially opened by the Queen on the day she become Britain’s longest-serving monarch in September.
She and the Duke of Edinburgh were accompanied by First Minister Nicola Sturgeon on a steam train journey along the £294 million line.
A blueprint for the line to stimulate growth was launched in November 2014. Work has concentrated on an action plan to deliver “key investments and commitments”.
The Scottish Government has committed £10m in principle to meet any “funding gap” in realising these projects.
Scottish Borders Council has already given its support to a number of the schemes associated with the railway.
A report to the local authority said that without this financial commitment there was a risk the blueprint’s “economic and community benefits” would not be realised.