New HS2 report hailed as boost for case for Borders Railway extension

A new report has been welcomed by campaigners as further endorsement of the case for extending the Borders Railway south into England.

By Darin Hutson
Friday, 12th June 2020, 11:50 am
A Borders Railway service at Galashiels train station.
A Borders Railway service at Galashiels train station.

Called High-Speed Rail and Scotland, that report – produced for the High-Speed Rail Group by policy research team Greengauge 21 for submission to the UK Government’s national infrastructure commission – calls for the controversial £90bn HS2 rail network from London to Birmingham, Manchester and Leeds to be extended north of the border.

It also advocates extending the Borders Railway from Tweedbank to Carlisle to boost economic regeneration and social inclusion, as well as making the most of the increased network capacity set to be created by HS2, given the thumbs-up by ministers in April and due for completion in 2035.

“It would provide accessibility from the Borders’ towns to Carlisle,” say the authors of the 36-page report.

“This line might accommodate freight as well as additional passenger flows and will add to the importance of Carlisle as a rail hub and add some demand on the west coast route in England south of Carlisle.”

The Campaign for Borders Rail has welcomed those findings as further strengthening its case to have the 30-mile track extended into Cumbria.

Campaign chairman Simon Walton said: “The findings of the High-Speed Rail Group, which represents a very broad church of informed industry opinion, take a very relevant look at demand for rail services in the light of post-coronavirus demand, environmental imperatives and shift towards rail transport.

“The strategic importance of an extended Borders Railway, as an asset for the entire network, has been recognised for its true value in this report.

“The campaign has always argued that a new cross-border rail link will be of benefit far beyond the Borders.

“Building the railway will not just be a tremendous fillip for the communities it directly serves. It will also be an asset that helps solve challenges of capacity and reliability all over the network.”

The popularity of the existing £353m line from Edinburgh to Tweedbank is proof of the potential demand for the 67-mile extension his group wants to see built, according to Mr Walton.

“As a very popular commuter service in Midlothian and a regional service in the central Borders, the line has proved its worth since opening in 2015,” he added.

“With over four million passengers already having used the service, despite considerable capacity constraints, the case for extension could not be clearer.

“It is already apparent that extension has widespread support in the community, commerce and all levels of government.

“We therefore urge no further delay in commissioning the project. With so many green lights in front of us, immediate progress is the obvious course of action.”

To see the report, go to www.rail-leaders.com/wp-content/uploads/High-Speed-Rail-and-Scotland.pdf