Call for Kelso railway case to be examined

Train at Kelso Station
Train at Kelso Station

Any expansion of the new Borders Railway should include consideration of re-opening the line to Kelso and on to Berwick-upon-Tweed.

The idea was floated at Kelso Community Council this week by member Harry Tomcyzk, who said there was no reason why the campaign to get the line extended from Tweedbank through to Hawick and on to Carlisle, should not include examination of the case for the Kelso branch line being re-opened.

“Essentially it would be about whether there was demand for a rail connection to Kelso from the people of Kelso,” he said. “Is there a better way of improving communication and transportation links for Kelso than just improving road links?”

Council chairman, provost John Bassett, said it was improvement of local roads that was needed, but Mr Tomcyzk added: “It’s quicker to go to Edinburgh from Kelso by bus than it is to get a bus to Galashiels and then take the train. It’s also not just about Kelso folk, but about attracting more visitors to come to Kelso.”

But local Scottish Borders councillor Tom Weatherston felt, while the line would eventually reach Hawick, he doubted Kelso would see a rail link again: “ I just don’t see anyone wanting to foot what would be a massive bill to build a line all the way to Kelso and across a river.”

Kelso Railway Station, at Maxwellheugh, lay on the St Boswells to Tweedmouth line which was created by the linking of two separate lines in the middle of the 19th century.

Passenger services on the line ceased in June, 1964, with the last freight train along the stretch from St Boswells to Kelso arriving at the Maxwellheugh station in April, 1968.

However, asked to comment, Scottish Borders Council leader David Parker said it was an idea that might be worth at least exploring in the next phase of feasibility work for the Borders Railway, which starts next year with a study, looking at connecting Tweedbank with Hawick and then Carlisle. “I want the feasibility study not only to look at what was there previously to see if it can be reinstated, but to consider whether there are any alternative options worth pursuing,” he said.

“Tweedbank to St Boswells, Kelso and Berwick may seem ambitious and impossible, but in 2015 the Borders delivered the longest domestic railway to be built in 100 years. So the impossible can be achieved.”

Mr Parker said the new year will see a workshop involving engineers and professionals who will pull together what a remit for the feasibility study.

And he added: “Once we have an agreed brief, I will put it out to consultation with the Borders public for comments. Once we have these, the final brief for the feasibility study can be agreed.”