Tourism figures add momentum to calls to extend Borders Railway to Hawick

Hawick councillor Watson McAteer near where the town's old railway bridge used to be.
Hawick councillor Watson McAteer near where the town's old railway bridge used to be.

Momentum is growing for the extension of the Borders Railway to Hawick now a new report has hailed the line’s positive impact on tourism in the parts of the region it serves.

Scottish Tourism Economic Assessment Monitor statistics released this week show a sizeable increase in visitor numbers in both the Borders and Midlothian in the first half of 2016 compared to the same period a year earlier.

In the Borders, the number of visitor days in hotels and bed-and-breakfasts rose by 27 per cent and there was a 20 per cent rise in visitor spend on food and drink.

Hawick’s councillors are convinced that positive impact would be replicated there were the £350m line to be extended to the town and then on to Carlisle.

Hawick and Denholm councillor Watson McAteer believes the data is proof positive that immediate action is needed to extend the 30-mile track from Edinburgh to Tweedbank further south.

He said: “The early success of the Borders Railway, particularly its impact in the Galashiel area, is all the evidence the Scottish Government requires to push ahead now rather than wait until November for the feasibility study to extend the line to Hawick and Carlisle.

“While areas like Hawick are seeing very little, if any, material economic benefit from the current position, extending the line would, I believe, change our fortunes and open all of the Borders to tourists and business from north and south.

“I would certainly call on the council and the Government to place this at the top of their agenda for the Borders and act as quickly as possible.”

Hawick and Hermitage councillor Davie Paterson also welcomed the rise in tourist visits, saying: “There is every a reason for extending the railway to Carlisle.

“Surely with these fantastic figures, even the railway knockers would have to agree that the railway has been a great success for Midlothian and the central Borders.

“Now, it’s time for us all to get behind bringing the railway to other parts of the Borders and then on to Carlisle.”

The report also identified a 16% increase in visitor spend across the Borders and an 8% rise in employment related to tourism.

Tweeddale East councillor Stuart Bell, the council’s executive member for economic development, added: “The introduction of the railway has undoubtedly contributed to these figures.”