Campaigners chose the day Her Majesty The Queen officially opened the 30.5-mile Borders Railway (September 9) to call for a renewed push to extend the line southwards.
Campaign for Borders Rail (CBR) Chairman Simon Walton said the line needs to extend to Carlisle to reach its full potential.
“Hawick is the Borders town which has suffered most from the loss of the old Waverley Route in 1969,” he said.
“To meet its full potential, the Borders also needs a direct rail link to the South. The key benefits of southwards extension would include social inclusion, economic regeneration and tourism opportunities - and sustainable transport for timber from Kielder and the Borders forests, getting log lorries off the roads. And a reinstated railway through to Carlisle would provide a strategic diversionary route, relieving pressure on the busy West Coast Main Line.”
The Borders Railway Maximising the Impact: A Blueprint for the Future report, produced in November 2014, states: “We will scope potential further feasibility work around extending the Borders Railway line towards Hawick and Carlisle, including turning options at and beyond Tweedbank.”
Claudia Beamish, Scottish Labour MSP for South Scotland, said: “For the future, I am determined to continue to try to convince those in my own party and the Scottish Government of the importance of getting the line extended through Hawick to Carlisle, and will be glad to work on this with CBR.”
Walton said: “It’s very encouraging that Scottish Borders Council is already pushing strongly for a major feasibility study to examine all the opportunities for passenger and freight traffic that an extended railway would provide. CBR will be delighted to provide informed input, ensuring that the mistakes made in the original Scottish Borders Railway Feasibility Study in 2000 are not repeated this time round.”
These mistakes, CBR claims, include failing to examine a two-tier rail service to cater for two different markets - an intensive suburban service shuttle from Edinburgh to Gorebridge, calling at all stations, overlaid by a limited-stop express from Edinburgh to Galashiels and Tweedbank. CBR says the option taken forward is a ‘one-size-fits-all’ timetable with trains stopping at all stations.
CBR also claims that despite 24 different ‘base options’ being assessed for different line termini and service frequencies, there was no analysis of the option of terminating at Melrose (two miles beyond Tweedbank), which CBR says is the heart of Borders tourism.