Extending the re-opened Borders Railway to Hawick is a "rock solid" prospect, SNP backbencher Christine Grahame told campaigners today.
The Midlothian South, Tweeddale and Lauderdale MSP's confident prediction at the Campaign for Borders Rail's (CBR) annual meeting came ahead of a feasibility study into restoring the rest of the former Waverley Route to Carlisle.
A 35-mile section of the line between Edinburgh and Tweedbank was re-opened four years ago after the whole route was shut in 1969.
It has been judged a major success, attracting more than 4 million passengers in its first three years.
Ms Grahame told the meeting in Edinburgh: "You will get it through to Hawick.
"Its success will make it rock solid that it will be extended."
The MSP was also optimistic the line could be extended to Carlisle.
'Certainty that businesses need'
CBR chairman Simon Walton was delighted at her confidence.
He said: "I am very encouraged to hear Christine Grahame speak in such absolute terms about extending the railway.
"That gives us an excellent basis to lobby for a positive feasibility study.
"It's the sort of certainty that businesses in the Borders need to have confidence to build opportunities."
The Scottish Government's Transport Scotland agency said it had pledged £5 million to examine a potential extension of the line.
A Transport Scotland spokesperson said: “The Borders Railway has been a phenomenal success as it continues to grow in both popularity and bringing benefits to the local economy
"It is acting as a catalyst for investment while opening up employment, leisure and education opportunities for communities along its length.
“This Scottish Government recognises transport connectivity is vital for joining up the communities and maximising the economic potential of the Scottish Borders region, and this was demonstrated with the signing of the head of terms for the Borderlands Growth Deal this year.
"This deal will drive inclusive growth and will deliver economic benefit for individuals, businesses and communities across the region.
"Within the deal, the Scottish Government has made a commitment of £5 million to explore the potential extension of the Borders Railway."