Support is continuing to grow for an extension to the Borders Railway at both ends of the longer line now being mooted.
Not only has the Scottish Government hired a consultant to look into the feasibility of extending the Edinburgh-Tweedbank track to Carlisle, as reported in the Southern, but council chiefs at what would be the opposite end of such a track to Holyrood, south of the border in Cumbria, are giving that move the thumbs-up too.
Carlisle City Council leader Colin Glover says he is pleased that the Scottish Government is looking into extending the 30-mile line almost 70 miles further south west into England, effectively reviving the old 98-mile Waverley Route opened in stages between 1849 and 1862 and closed in 1969.
Mr Glover said that extending the Borders Railway would yield benefits for both Cumbria and the Borders.
He said: “We spoke to Alex Salmond when he visited Hawick as first minister and he said once it was reopened, extending it to Carlisle should be looked at.
“We know that people in Hawick look to Carlisle to help drive their economy, so extending the railway will be major help to them as well as the city.”
That hope of boosting economies both sides of the England-Scotland border by improving transport links echoes the optimism expressed by Humza Yousaf, the Scottish Government’s transport minister, when he announced the feasibility study, being carried out by Jacobs UK, earlier this month.
“In the Scottish Government’s programme for government, a commitment was given to examine the case for an extension of the Borders railway,” said Mr Yousaf.
“This study will take forward that commitment by considering how we improve accessibility in the Borders, link communities to key markets through strategic transport routes and identify where improvements to transport links are required.
“We want to build on the existing Borders Railway by considering whether it should be extended to Carlisle.
“The study will also look at how we improve access from the Scottish Borders to key markets in to Edinburgh, Carlisle and Newcastle.
“Working with partners at Scottish Borders Council and the South East of Scotland Transport Partnership, Transport Scotland will identify a range of options for improving transport that can be considered as part of the review of strategic transport projects, which will look at future transport infrastructure projects for the whole of Scotland.
“These options could include new rail services, improvements to existing road infrastructure and improved public transport provision.”
Continuing the current line, opened in September 2015, to Hawick, via Melrose, would add about 17 miles to its 30-mile length, and carrying onto Carlisle, via either Langholm or Newcastleton, would add a further 50-plus miles on top of that, taking it to just short of 100 miles in length.