A rail link is vital to Hawick’s economic future, according to a report looking at the viability of extending the Borders Railway into England.
The document, detailing the advantages of enhancing and extending the Borders Railway to better serve more communities has been published by the Campaign for Borders Rail and presented to the Scottish Government.
The report proposes improvements to the existing 30-mile line from Edinburgh to Tweedbank and its extension as a through route, via Hawick to Cumbria, providing a new strategic link in the national network.
“We believe that the Borders needs a through route to the south to maximise its economic potential, and for Hawick, a rail link is vital to reverse years of decline,” the campaign briefing document states.
The campaign’s summary case for a new cross-border rail link, likely to cost more than £650m, was distributed to Parliamentary candidates ahead of today’s Westminster general election.
The extension being proposed would improve access to the towns and villages served by the 98-mile Waverley Route between Edinburgh and Carlisle closed in 1969, says the report.
The existing line, opened in 2015 at a cost of £350m, largely follows the course of the northern end of the old Waverley Route out of Edinburgh and through Midlothian into the central Scottish Borders.
“This document will help inform the debate on preparing for the proposed railway through the Scottish Borders to Carlisle and beyond,” said Allan McLean, chairman of the campaign.
“The economies of Edinburgh, Midlothian and the northern Borders have all gained demonstrably from the opening of the Borders Railway.
“Now it is time for Hawick and other communities in the southern Borders to benefit directly,” he added.
The briefing document sets out the campaign’s commercial, social and economic cases for a new railway linking the existing Tweedbank terminus to the West Coast main line at Mossband, just north of Carlisle.
“The completed railway would allow through trains between Edinburgh and Carlisle, serving intermediate settlements including Hawick. Communities not directly served would benefit from access by connecting bus services and park-and-ride stations,” the document states.
“The opening of the Borders Railway to Tweedbank has been a great success.
“However, Hawick, the worst-affected town, remains isolated and in decline.
“Poor links to the south limit the region’s economic potential.
“The extension of the Borders Railway to Hawick and Carlisle is the only realistic proposal that adequately addresses these problems.
“It will provide a gateway to the region from the economic powerhouse of north west England and strengthen links to Edinburgh.
“Extending the line is unfinished business that will secure the legacy of the existing Borders Railway investment and build on this achievement to deliver substantial additional benefit for the public good.”
The first copy of the 20-page document was presented by Mr McLean, to Scotland’s minister for transport, Humza Yousaf, at their most recent meeting at the Scottish Parliament in Edinburgh.
The bill for extending the Borders Railway by 56 miles to Mossbank would be expected to come to in excess of £650m and, once inflation and other factors are taken into account, possibly double the £350m the current line cost.
The report says: “The cost of reinstatement between Tweedbank and Mossband is a matter for future feasibility studies to examine in detail.
“Cost factors include the particular infrastructure specification options selected and the extent of enabling works required to connect to existing lines.
“However, the 2012-5 Borders Railway reinstatement provides a useful benchmark for an outline cost appraisal.
“At 2012 prices, rebuilding the 30.5 miles of disused route cost circa £350m, including land acquisition and construction, an average of £11.5m per mile.
“On this basis, the capital cost for the 56-mile Tweedbank-Mossband junction phase would be £644m at 2012 prices.”
The extension suggested by the campaign would stop at Melrose, St Boswells, Hawick, Newcastleton and Longtown.