Pressure is mounting for the English and Scottish governments to agree to have the Borders Railway extended into Cumbria.
It was agreed at the Campaign for Borders Rail’s 2017 annual meeting, held at the Heart of Hawick on Saturday, that calls for the extension of the Edinburgh-Tweedbank track to Carlisle should be kept up until they are heeded.
Ettrick, Roxburgh and Berwickshire MSP Rachael Hamilton was among four panellists taking part in a question-and-answer session, along with ScotRail managing director Alex Hynes, Carlisle City Council leader Colin Glover and Hawick honorary provost Watson McAteer.
She said: “It was a real honour to be invited as a guest to the Campaign for Borders Rail’s AGM.
“It was a spirited and lively event, and we were all agreed that the Borders Railway must be extended to Hawick and then onto Carlisle.
“An extended rail line would play a crucial part in a creating an integrated transport network in the Borders. It will bring more visitors to the Borders and help grow our local economies.
“In the Scottish Borders, we’ve seen the Scottish Government drag out other rail projects with repeated studies and assessments. It’s now time it took action and agreed to extending the Borders Railway.
“This can be a real cross-border initiative that will benefit both sides of the border.
“It’s an exciting opportunity, and I think we should grab it with both hands.”
Berwickshire, Roxburgh and Selkirk MP John Lamont agreed, saying: “I have been lobbying the UK Government to take the next steps to facilitate the extension of the Borders Railway down to Carlisle.
“I am keen that the Borderlands growth deal includes some work on the costs and benefits of this investment. It is important that we get this right.
“Last week, I met the MP for Carlisle, John Stevenson, and he is very keen on a rail link between his constituency and the Borders.
“The extension of the Borders Railway will require co-operation between Scotland’s two governments, and I look forward to helping with that in any way I can.”
A unanimous vote by representatives of its 1,000-strong membership gave the campaign a mandate to continue pressing the case for extending the 30-mile Borders Railway through Hawick to Carlisle.
Mr McAteer said that a restored rail link would bring many benefits to the community in Hawick and provide a catalyst for economic growth.
Mr Glover reiterated the importance of improved communications between the Cumbrian city and the Borders.
Simon Walton was elected for a second stint as chair man of the campaign, and he said he believes the coming year will be a pivotal one for it.
He said that with a Scottish Government-backed transport study expected early in 2018, it is crucial that the campaign be ready with a response.
Its recommendations, he warned, are by no means assured to be positive towards further railway development.
Remaining focused, committed and confident would be the keys to seeing the campaign’s ultimate goal achieved, he added.