The UK Government has announced it is backing a full feasibility study into bringing the Borders Railway to Hawick, Newcastleton and on to Carlisle.
In a follow up letter to John Lamont MP, who raised the issue in Westminster this week, the Secretary of State for Scotland, David Mundell MP confirmed the UK Government backed the study as part of the £345m Borderlands Growth Deal.
As the deal is jointly funded by the UK and Scottish Government, the progress of the study is now dependent on Scottish Ministers agreeing to give it the go ahead.
It is expected that the Heads of Terms for the £345m Borderlands Growth Deal will be signed off in June, meaning the feasibility study could begin as early as this year.
The news has been warmly welcomed by John Lamont MP who has been campaigning for Borderlands to include this study.
Ahead of the 2016 Scottish Parliament elections, the First Minister promised a feasibility study in to extending the railway. To date all that has been produced is a Transport Study which lists extending the Borders Railway as a possible option to be considered at a future date.
John Lamont MP said: “This is great news for the campaign to bring the Borders Railway to Hawick and beyond.
“We need to improve transport links across the whole of the Borders and extending the Borders Railway is part of this.
“A full feasibility study will look in detail at the costs and benefits of bringing the railway to Hawick, Newcastleton and on to Carlisle. I’d expect this to look at things like impact on businesses, jobs and tourism as well as the implications of getting freight off our roads.
“With the UK Government now publically backing the study, the ball is now very much in the SNP’s court. Back in 2016, the First Minister went to Hawick and promised a feasibility study. It is time to fulfil this promise with some funding and get this campaign properly moving.”
Barbara Elborn, Newcastleton and District Community Council Secretary said: “This is a huge leap forward in our campaign to push for the extension of the line through to Carlisle. We can only hope now that our Scottish Parliamentarians also see the benefits of undertaking this wide-reaching study.
“There is absolutely no doubt that the benefits of reinstating the line will be felt by all within in the Borderlands Growth Deal catchment, but a feasibility study that delves deep to understand the full opportunities, and in our view that must include freight, will fully answer all those who doubt it.
“Those communities who have lived through the last 50 years without the line have no doubts at all about the rewards it will bring.”