'Encouraging signs' on Borders Railway extension to Carlisle

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TrainImage source, Dougie Johnston
Image caption,
Mr Kerr said the railway had "confounded its critics" by proving "massively popular"

An MP has said there are "encouraging signs" that the "fantastic vision" of extending the Borders Railway to Carlisle could be realised.

The MP for Berwickshire, Roxburgh and Selkirk said he believed cross-party and cross-border support was possible.

A feasibility study is already planned into the potential of extending the route beyond its Tweedbank terminus.

The multi-million pound route between Edinburgh and the Borders opened to passengers earlier this year.

Mr Kerr said it had "confounded its critics" by proving "massively popular" and providing a boost to business in the area.

However, he said that there was now and "extremely strong case" for taking the line on through Hawick to Carlisle.

"A dynamic is building over this," said Mr Kerr.

"I believe it is possible to complete this project, though I'm aware that it won't be easy."

'Commercial return'

The SNP MP said that given it was a cross-border route the project faced an "extra layer of complexity" with the need for UK government backing.

He said that talks with neighbouring MP and Scottish Secretary David Mundell had been encouraging as had discussions with Penrith and the Border MP Rory Stewart.

Mr Kerr added that one way forward might be to apply for a debate in Westminster Hall to get an "insight into the government's thinking".

"Finishing the rest of the route will be a big investment and we will have to demonstrate there will be a commercial return," he said.

"But it will offer enormous benefits.

"It will be a third railway line between Scotland and England, improving our UK transport infrastructure, providing new linkages and creating real potential for economic and tourism benefits."

Mr Mundell said he was "very supportive" of the evaluation of the extension that was due to take place.

He added that he was also "broadly supportive" of possible options which would allow for timber traffic to be taken from Kielder Forest.

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