Langholm's rail campaign gets back on track
A COMMUNITY-LED campaign to extend the Borders Railway through Langholm will get the political support it needs to put the town on the map, residents have been promised.
Taking the route through Langholm rather than along the original Waverley track through Newcastleton is in the feasibility study commissioned by Transport Scotland for the government.
At a meeting organised by Getting Langholm Back on Track speakers outlined the current position and how the feasibility study would progress.
Cross-border support has been secured and there were representatives from Arthuret parish council and Cumbria County Council.
Douglas Kirkpatrick, lead officer at Swestrans, the public transport body, and Dumfries and Galloway's transport officer, said reviews of regional transport strategies would feed into the government's national transport strategy.
This would include extending the railway and improving trunk roads like the A7. The first part, the pre-appraisal report, was expected by the end of October. Swestrans' own review would include improving connectivity to Langholm.
Joan McAlpine, South of Scotland SNP MSP, told the meeting: "It's important you put down markers and do the appraisals so when money is available, you have your schemes up and running.
"Langholm has had a hard time in recent years but it is on the radar as is Dumfries and Galloway. It's important you have a community-led campaign. Politicians take notice if it's a genuine campaign which will turn around the town.
"I'm sure we will give you support by raising it in parliament so it doesn't fall off the radar. A railway linking Langholm to Carlisle and Edinburgh would do wonders for the town."
Colin Smyth, South of Scotland Labour MSP and chairman of the council's economy, environment and infrastructure committee, congratulated the campaign but said it would be a long haul and, at the end of the day, it would be a political decision by the government of the day.
He said: "We've been successful in telling the government that the region needs more investment, including in infrastructure, and a new South of Scotland enterprise company will be set up.
"We support the extension of the railway and Langholm having a station."
Val Tarbitt, Cumbria County Council's Longtown member, said it was a fantastic project.
She said: "We fought to keep the Ministry of Defence base at Longtown and it has a railway which connects to the West Coast main line. It might play an important role. It's a major issue for us all and I'm really pleased to be leading from across the border."
Councillor Denis Male, Annandale East and Eskdale, said: "The Cumbrian side have really taken this on board. It gives the whole thing heart and another string to our bow when we speak to ministers in Scotland."
Atholl Innes, spokesman for the Borders Rail Campaign, said that, at the moment, they favoured the route through Newcastleton. That did not mean they did not want Langholm included.
He said they would like to see freight on the trains so they could take more timber off the roads. The area carried a lot of heavy vehicles on its roads.