The Borders Railway has carried more than a million passengers during its first year in action – and now a Scottish Government study is under way which could see the line extended to Hawick and Carlisle.
Minister for Transport and the Islands Humza Yousaf MSP released details of a strategic transport projects review (STPR) last week – and it also includes plans to look at the possibility of improving the main road routes through the Borders and Berwickshire – namely the A1, the A7 and the A68.
Mr Yousaf wrote to Graeme Johnstone, Scottish Borders Council’s lead officer for access and transport, saying he was looking forward to working together to carry out the review, the findings of which would be released by the end of next year, he said.
The MSP wrote: “We are starting initial planning for the STPR and national transport strategy reviews now, and we will undertake a programme of engagement with stakeholders and local communities as we take the work forward.
“The engagement is likely to get under way next year and continue as we progress these important pieces of work, and it will build on the success of the Dumfries and Galloway Transport Summit.
“As part of the early work for the review, Transport Scotland will now commence with a Borders transport corridors pre-appraisal.
“This study will examine the case for extending the Borders Railway along with improvements to the A1, A7 and A68 within a corridor based multi-modal transport study to consider Borders transport requirements, with emerging findings reported by the end of 2017.”
Councillor David Parker, leader of Scottish Borders Council, said: “SBC has been working in partnership with the Scottish Government on the delivery of the feasibility study for extending the Borders Railway to Hawick and Carlisle.
“The council fully supports the extension of the Borders Railway to Hawick and Carlisle and believes that the success of the project in its first year justifies the need to extend the service and link the Borders to Carlisle once again.
“I am very pleased that the Scottish Government will be considering road improvements to the A1, A7 and A68. The council has consistently said that more investment is needed in these roads and I have no doubt that when the study is published it will recommend improvements for all three routes, which will be delivered over the next decade.
“The announcement by government of this significant transport study is very welcome news and I am sure it will lead to greater investment in our region.”
Celebrating the one million passenger milestone, and coinciding with Scottish Food & Drink Fortnight, passengers travelling through stations along the Borders Railway on Tuesday were treated to a variety of free, locally-sourced food and drink, including freshly-pressed seasonal apple juices from Tweeddale artisan producer Cuddybridge Apple Juice and traditional Scottish confectionery hand-made by Vanessa Tait of Curly Coo Tablet from Kelso.
The giveaways took place at Galashiels Transport Interchange and Edinburgh Waverley Station.