THE Campaign for Borders Rail (CBR) has made its case for reconnecting the line to Carlisle to a UK government review.
The group, which is in favour of the Hawick to Newcastleton option, spoke to the Union Connectivity Review, chaired by Network Rail’s Sir Peter Hendy.
It said that completing the line would deliver the connectivity, economic boost, social inclusion and environmental sustainability mandated by the review and government policy at both Holyrood and Westminster.
Simon Walton, CBR chairman said the strategic need for the extended railway was now recognised in the UK and the wider network benefits were apparent to all potential stakeholders.
He added: “Investing in the Borders Railway extension is the best value way to simultaneously deliver a step-change in cross-border connectivity and substantial economic growth for the region.
“We’ve long argued that completing the line serves the community, regional economy and national network in equal measure.
“The case has been proven by the runaway success of the existing line between Edinburgh and Tweedbank.”
Within the context of the review, CBR has outlined several key benefits of through-route completion of the line.
It will be an important additional economic driver strengthening transport links within the cross-border region in support of the Borderlands economic regeneration and the regional growth agenda.
It will provide another route for freight between Scotland and England to meet growing demand.
The popularity of the existing Borders Railway, with passenger numbers far exceeding expectations, provides ‘proof of concept’ that new railways are an effective driver for regional economic regeneration.
The network will be more resilient by the provision of a diversionary route between Carlisle and Edinburgh for the west coast main line.
The line will regenerate left-behind communities in the region, currently limited by slow and unreliable pubic transport services and reliance on cars for mobility.
There will be better access to jobs and education in the Carlisle area and the line will encourage the development of tourism and inward investment.
Being an area criss-crossed by timber wagons, it will place the transport of timber from the extensive forestry plantations on a more sustainable basis by providing direct rail access to the logging areas and removing dangerous and polluting HGV movements from minor roads.
Mr Walton said the extension would play a critical part in the mandated shift to a net-zero carbon economy.
“Its construction will support the wider modal shift from road to rail by extending train services into areas of high car dependency and poor public transport.”
“The railway will become the spine of an integrated public transport network for the region through the provision of rail-bus interchange facilities, park and ride sites, and linkages with walking and cycling routes. The potential advantages of a completed Borders Railway have cross-party political support, and the wide lobby of industry and community. The consensus is behind this project and the Campaign urges the Union Connectivity Review to recognise that, and make the unequivocal recommendation that this railway has an overwhelming case for construction.”