Impassioned plea from Hawick councillor for Borders Railway extension not to be derailed

A rallying call for an extension of Borders Railway to Hawick not to be forced off the track has been issued by the town’s concerned provost.

By Paul Kelly
Wednesday, 26th May 2021, 9:16 am
Watson McAteer. (Photo: BILL McBURNIE)
Watson McAteer. (Photo: BILL McBURNIE)

Hawick and Hermitage councillor Watson McAteer heard alarm bells sounding when Scottish Borders Council convenor David Parker recently warned that work on extension of the line from Tweedbank to Hawick, and through Newcastleton and on to Carlisle, was unlikely to start before 2040.

Mr McAteer believes that prediction is worrying enough.

But he fears such a schedule actually under-estimates the potential delay in the rail dream becoming a reality – unless interested parties step up efforts.

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Watson McAteer. (Photo: BILL McBURNIE)

Mr Parker’s prediction came as a shock to some rail enthusiasts, who had been hoping for a start date within a decade.

He said: “I think if we are very lucky and the momentum picks up and there is a genuine willingness, and more money becomes available, we might be at the very beginning of the construction of the extension in 20 years.”Scottish Borders Council has previously unanimously agreed a motion to support the extension and is an active participant with Northumbria, Cumbria and Dumfries and Galloway local authorities in the Borderlands Growth Deal.However, Mr McAteer, believes more urgent action is needed.

He said: “It is difficult to identify who is actually owning and running this project and I am asking that between the Borderlands Growth Deal, Transport Scotland, the Department of Transport in England that we agree who can do this.

"Lessons from the past are not being learned. When the original return of the railway was initiated SBC took the lead and employed council staff at a project level to deliver almost all of the work until the building phase that was passed to the Scottish Government in 2008.“At this stage SBC nor any of the other three local authorities have full time staff committed to this project.“Councillor David Parker’s recent prophecy that it may be 2040 before any work is started on the extension of the Borders railway, while deeply worryIng, may be a gross underestimate if action is not taken now to take this project seriously.”