South Scotland

Borders Railway extension feasibility study views laid out

Train Image copyright Dougie Johnston

Politicians from across the spectrum have been giving their views on plans for a feasibility study on extending the Borders Railway.

Nicola Sturgeon announced this week that if an SNP government was re-elected it would commit to a study.

Labour, the Lib Dems, Conservatives and Scottish Greens have also given their backing to such a report.

The multi-million pound line between Edinburgh and the Borders opened to passengers last year.

The first minister confirmed her party's support for a feasibility study during a visit to Hawick on Thursday.

"The Borders Railway has been a fantastic success - boosting the economy, leading to new house building and supporting tourism in the region," said Ms Sturgeon.

"Since it was opened in September last year the number of passengers has exceeded all expectations, with over half a million people travelling on the line by January.

"With this kind of success it makes sense to look at extending the line to other communities."

'Ambitious vision'

Paul Wheelhouse, who will contest the Ettrick, Roxburgh and Berwickshire seat for the SNP, said he was "delighted" with the commitment.

Jim Hume, set to fight in the same constituency for the Liberal Democrats, said his party had "paved the way" for the line to Tweedbank in 2006 when it was part of the coalition government in Holyrood.

"Liberal Democrats have always said that the line to Tweedbank should be seen as the start of a more ambitious vision of getting the line to Hawick and then eventually on to Carlisle, ensuring that more of our Borders communities can reap the economic benefits," he said.

He said the key to any feasibility study was that it started with the co-operation of stakeholders "as soon as possible" in order to build on the success of the line to Tweedbank.

Labour's Barrie Cunning also said he welcomed Ms Sturgeon's commitment to extending the Borders Railway.

"But whatever party is elected to government in May, it has a duty to undertake a real-time feasibility study into extending the Borders railway line which will benefit rural communities in the Borders," he added.

'Hugely successful'

Conservative John Lamont said he supported "looking closely" at how the line could be extended to Hawick and on to Carlisle.

"However, we need to ensure that local businesses and the potential to maximise investment are central to this process," he said.

"This must be about creating jobs for the area and securing our long-term economic prosperity."

Scottish Greens' South of Scotland hopeful Sarah Beattie-Smith said it would be "very welcome news" to people in the Borders.

"The hugely successful reopening of the Waverley Line last year has shown that not only are people in the Borders better able to access the rest of Scotland, but that the rest of Scotland is waking up to the rich history, vibrant present and future possibilities of the Borders," she said.

"Extending the railway to Hawick and Carlisle is very clearly the right thing to do and we lend our full support to the campaign to see it completed."

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