There was disappointment from rail campaigners earlier this year when the Government made no recommendations on the future of an extension of the rail route from Tweedbank to Carlisle, via Hawick and Newcastleton, within its important strategic transport review.
Now concern at the lack of progress has been heightened by a Government representation to be considered by Scottish Borders Council at its meeting on Thursday, March 10.
As part of the council’s consultation over its Local Development Plan, Scottish Government is seeking the “removal of any indication of a preferred route for a railway extension from Tweedbank to Carlisle via Hawick.”
That has sounded alarm bells for Hawick and Hermitage independent representative Watson McAteer, who fears it could create a “five year hiatus or longer” of the rail extension and raises the possibility of an alternative route emerging – potentially through Langholm.
The Hawick provost said: “I can’t believe that the Scottish Government are demanding removal of any indication of a preferred route for a railway extension from Tweedbank to Carlisle via Hawick that is currently included in Scottish Borders Council’s Local Development Plan.
“This is our strategic plan, normally in place for five years, where the future building and development policies are formalised and agreed by the Scottish Government.
“The request to remove the railway extension follows quickly after the Scottish Government failed to make any recommendations for the future of the Borders Railway within the recently published strategic transport review.
“Many may consider that this action is to slow progress and create uncertainty, especially for those living in the Hawick and Newcasteton areas.
“Extension of the line south from Tweedbank, closely following the historic Waverley route where much of the infrastructure remains in place, makes complete sense.
“Why the Scottish Government is refusing to support this logical approach and provide the Southern Borders with hope for the future is anyone’s guess but I hope my fellow councillors will record their rejection and dissatisfaction with this proposal when it is presented to the council on Thursday.”