Scottish Enterprise chairman Bob Keiller has added his voice to calls for an extension of the Borders Railway.
Speaking at an event held in Edinburgh on Tuesday to encourage businesses to make the most of the opportunities offered by the two-year-old track, Mr Keiller said the economic benefits of the railway to the region had exceeded all expectations and the same ought to be true of a longer version.
“The benefits are definitely economic in the Borders, and that was underestimated at the time, so certainly that’s a great thing in terms of bolstering the case for further investment in the railway,” he said.
“I’ve spent all my life in investment, and I look at things and say if it works, we should do more of it. If it doesn’t work, we shouldn’t do it.
“This has clearly worked and is working and can work even better.”
Tweedbank were underestimated and this was “a great thing in terms of bolstering the case for further investment into the rail.”
Scottish Enterprise’s support for the addition of an extra 70 or so miles of track to take the Borders Railway south-west into England and link up with the west coast main line could mark a breakthrough in the campaign for such an extension, believes Berwickshire, Roxburgh and Selkirk MP John Lamont.
“This is a significant intervention from the head of Scotland’s main economic development agency.
“Any extension is clearly going to take time, and in that time we need to ensure the economic potential of the current line is fully realised and we get any extension right.
“The current railway is far from perfect, and I’m keen to look at how we can better integrate the transport system to link up to other parts of the Borders and encourage more people to come here, rather than use the railway to get to Edinburgh.
“The UK Government has already indicated it is happy to work with the Scottish Government on bringing the railway to Carlisle, and I look forward to helping with this process.”
Ettrick, Roxburgh and Berwickshire MSP Rachael Hamilton agrees, saying: “The extended train line would provide an invaluable transport link for young people to gain easier access to jobs and education opportunities from Carlisle to Edinburgh and further.
“Bringing the line south would encourage more people to make cross-border day trips and boost overnight stays to the Borders.
“It would bring a boost for the tourism industry, and the footfall on our high streets would receive a welcome upturn.”