New hope for railway extension
In the week that mountains were moved to get the Flying Scotsman to Tweedbank comes new hope for an extension to the Borders Railway.
It took a miraculous multi-agency rescue bid to fix the problems that saw the famous train’s visit temporarily cancelled last week.
And if the railway is to advance to Hawick and then Carlisle, a similar marvel of politicians and governments of different ilks working together for the same cause will be required.
This week, the chances of such a phenomenon taking place took a giant leap.
In a speech in Edinburgh on Monday, Scottish Secretary David Mundell pledged to work with the Scottish Government on connecting the Borders with the national rail network to the south, saying it was a “realistic prospect”.
He said: “Scotland needs good transport links to thrive.
“During the election, the First Minister stated her commitment to exploring the feasibility of extending the Borders Railway to Carlisle.
“Patently, such a development would require cross-border working and partnerships.
“I am ready to work with the Scottish Government on this issue as they develop their plans and thinking.
“I think it is a realistic prospect.
“It obviously requires considerable work in terms of ensuring the route is identified, and there are also complexities because the legislation and rules to create a new railway in England are slightly different to Scotland. But I think everyone is of a mind that it should be done, and I think it is perfectly doable.
“For communities like Hawick, it would make a major difference, and it has got huge potential in the south to take traffic off the roads.
“I am committed to playing my part.”
His pledge was welcomed by fellow Tory, John Lamont MSP for Ettrick, Roxburgh and Berwickshire.
He said: “I am very supportive of extending the railway to Hawick and on to Carlisle, but it is really important that we properly explore the effects this may have on the Borders to ensure we get maximum return for the investment.
“We also need to do more to ensure that the transport system for the current railway and any extension is properly integrated, so that everyone from the Borders reaps the benefit of this investment.
“I look forward to working with both governments in Westminster and Holyrood to ensure this work is carried out as quickly as possible.”
Back in April, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon confirmed her party’s support for a feasibility study during a visit to Hawick.
She said: “The Borders Railway has been a fantastic success – boosting the economy, leading to new house building and supporting tourism in the region.
“Since it was opened in September last year, the number of passengers has exceeded all expectations, with over half a million people travelling on the line by January.
“With this kind of success, it makes sense to look at extending the line to other communities.”