Extending the new Borders Railway on to Hawick and Carlisle is a real possibility if everyone pulls together to support the project, says local MP Calum Kerr.
The Berwickshire, Roxburgh and Selkirk MP told the annual meeting of the Campaign for Borders Rail that he was now planning to work with his fellow MPs at Westminster to push the project forward.
In his speech to the organisation at Stow Town Hall, he said that if campaigners made the case for the restoration of the full Waverley line which closed in 1969, they could well succeed.
“If we can build a clear and well developed case for a full Edinburgh to Carlisle line, I believe it is possible we can get it.”
Last month, the Edinburgh to Tweedbank section of the line was reopened by The Queen at a cost of £297 million.
It significantly shortens the journey time between the capital and the Central Borders and has already proved to be highly popular.
Mr Kerr praised those who had managed to secure the new line – the longest domestic railway to be built in the UK for more than 100 years – for a “remarkable achievement.”
It would, he said, act as an engine for economic growth, increase opportunities for inward investment, bring social benefits as well as jobs and provide a boost to tourism.
But he added: “If we can restore the line fully, then we really will make a transformative difference to the Scottish Borders.”
The SNP MP admitted that winning the investment necessary to restore the missing 68 miles from Tweedbank to Carlisle would not be easy because of Tory austerity.
However, he continued: “We are lucky in that we have a Scottish Government which recognises the return on investment such spending can bring.”
Extending the line would need a detailed feasibility study, Mr Kerr added, which would present a fully costed case along with “compelling” facts and figures.
He said he had already had talks with other MPs including Scottish Secretary David Mundell and North of England member and DEFRA minister Rory Stewart, and they were sympathetic.
“The positive reaction I’ve received from colleagues, including from other parties, means that I’m now looking at building up backing at Westminster to support the project.”
Mr Kerr also said this week that he was continuing to work with others to re-open a station at Reston in Berwickshire on the East Coast Main Line.
The move would provide a new rail connectively for the Eastern Borders via local trains running between Edinburgh and Berwick.
He explained: “Plans for the station are well developed. We now need to ensure that enough slots – so-called pathways – are available on the line to ensure that local services can be fitted in alongside express trains run by companies such as Virgin East Coast and Cross Country.”