South Scotland

Tory-Lib Dem dispute over Borders to Edinburgh railway

Rail route bridge
Image caption It is hoped the project will be completed by 2014

Two Borders MSPs have clashed over the benefits of a project to reopen the rail route between the region and Edinburgh.

Tory MSP for Roxburgh and Berwickshire, John Lamont, has raised concerns that the £295m plan might see other transport schemes neglected.

That was called a "damaging U-turn" by Lib Dem MSP for Tweeddale, Ettrick and Lauderdale, Jeremy Purvis.

The completion target for the Edinburgh to Tweedbank rail line is 2014.

Mr Lamont warned there was a danger the significant investment could see funds "diverted away" from other public transport improvements.

He said a recent survey on the Borders railway had shown people wanted better public transport but there was "frustration" the line would not extend to Hawick or link with the West Coast main line.

"Many people remain unconvinced that the new railway to Galashiels will make much difference to most communities in the Borders particularly since it will not go to Hawick and on to Carlisle," he said.

"The current Scottish government claims that the Borders railway project will help the whole of the Borders but I know that many feel that the current proposals will only assist the communities in the central Borders around Galashiels."

He said "dithering and delay" of the last Lib Dem/Labour executive had seen costs spiral upwards.

"Yet again the Borders has failed to get any major public transport improvements delivered," he claimed.

"It is vital that other transport improvements are not neglected in the drive to build the railway to Galashiels."

Mr Purvis said he was "astonished and angry" after hearing Mr Lamont's views.

'Flipped position'

"The two Borders constituency MSPs have fought hard for over a decade of devolution to advance the case of the Borders railway," he said.

"Given the economic fragility of the region, the case is stronger than ever for the region to be connected by rail to the centre of Edinburgh and Glasgow.

"Now Mr Lamont is seeking to undermine this totally."

He said that when his Tory counterpart had been standing for election to Westminster he had been in favour of the railway but now he had "flipped position".

"Mr Lamont says that because some of his constituents won't use the line then it's a waste of money," he said.

"Doesn't he get the fact that the Borders benefits when the whole region comes together to support priorities?

"He is driving a wedge in the region and he should be ashamed for doing so."

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