Pledge to explore Borders Rail extension

Transport bosses have vowed to continue looking at options to extend the Borders Railway as the longest line to be built in Scotland in a century marks five years of successful operation today.

By Beth Murray
Wednesday, 9th September 2020, 4:40 pm

The original line, which ran from Carlisle to Edinburgh was shut in 1969 but campaigners were actively trying to reinstate it as a vital connection between remote Borders towns and the central belt.

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The line has enjoyed a huge amount of success, with over 7.7 million passenger journeys over the last five years.

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A train on the line at Borthwick. Picture: Andy O'Brien/JPIMedia

Chair of the Campaign for Borders Rail, Simon Walton, said: “Right from the very beginning, the campaign always said that the Borders Railway would be a great success.”

“We are the Borders Railway’s greatest independent ambassador, but we are also its most critical friend. And we would still very much like to see it enhanced to make it fit for the purpose it’s grown into. And make it more fit for extension and re-establishment all the way to Hawick and Carlisle.”

The Borders Railway has seen the numbers of passengers increase year on year. A survey by ScotRail showed that 30 per cent of respondents didn’t make their current trip prior to the railway being build, which suggests the line has enabled people to take new opportunities and make new journeys.

At a price of £350m for 48 kilometres, The Borders Railway faced criticism over costs and whether the project would give enough back to the economy.

Local MSP Christine Grahame said: “In many ways it seems like it’s always been there given how integral it’s become to the area; however it represents a real asset to those who live along it and those who use it to access Midlothian and the Borders which was sorely needed.”

Last week, the Bank of Scotland released a report stating that the Capital was the most expensive place in Scotland to buy a house, with the average cost of a property sitting at five times the local average salary.

In anticipation of the new line, housing plans at Shawfair, Newtongrange and Gorebridge along with other stations on the route were introduced. The prospect of a rail link to Edinburgh was seen as a key incentive for encouraging young people to set up home in the region.

Transport Scotland said today: “Borders Railway has been a phenomenal success as it continues to grow in both popularity and bringing benefits to the local economy since it opened.

“It is acting as a catalyst for investment while opening up employment, leisure and education opportunities for communities along its length.

“With the high level of passengers and significant interest in expanding the route, it is appropriate that we are not only looking to electrify Borders Railway in the future but also that we continue to explore all options to extend it so even more communities can reap the benefits.”

To celebrate the fifth anniversary of the line, the Campaign for Borders Rail has produced a DVD souvenir box set featuring the real-time driver’s eye view of a complete journey from Tweedbank to Edinburgh Waverley. Simon Wilton said that due to Covid they are unable to celebrate the way they had planned but the documentary is a special way to recognise the milestone.

The campaign is continuing to push for the extension to the line to fully connect the Borders to central Scotland and say that if they were to get confirmation and commitment to building the railway, it could be completed within a two-year time frame.

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