Borders Railway extension prospects studied
A new study is to look at the possibility of extending the Borders Railway beyond Tweedbank to Carlisle.
Transport Scotland has announced it intends to award the contract to look at wider transport issues across the south of the country to Jacobs UK Ltd.
It is hoped the study can get under way later this month and will take about seven months to complete.
The findings will feed into the Scottish government's nationwide strategic transport projects review.
Transport Minister Humza Yousaf said a commitment had previously been given to examine the case for extending the railway along with improvements on the A1, A7 and A68.
"This study will take forward that commitment by considering how we improve accessibility in the Borders, link communities to key markets through strategic transport routes and identify where improvements to transport links are required," he said.
"We want to build on the existing Borders railway by considering whether it should be extended to Carlisle.
"The study will also look at how we improve access from the Scottish Borders to key markets in to Edinburgh, Carlisle and Newcastle."
He said Transport Scotland would work with partners to identify a "range of options" to be considered as part of the wider review.
"These options could include new rail services, improvements to existing road infrastructure and improved public transport provision," he added.
Ettrick, Roxburgh and Berwickshire MSP John Lamont welcomed the announcement of the study.
"The feasibility study was promised almost exactly a year ago and so I'm glad we are now moving forward," he said.
"Clearly the Borders Railway has been a huge success in terms of passenger numbers but we've already seen its effect on existing transport links with the withdrawal of First Group from the Borders.
"Any further study must look at the economic benefits of the line, but must do a better job of making sure we develop a properly integrated transport system so that the whole of the Borders benefits from any further investment."
He said it would be a "missed opportunity" to spend money extending the railway without looking closely at links to other public transport.
The Scottish Liberal Democrats also welcomed the study.
The party's transport spokesman Mike Rumbles said: "Extending the Borders Railway could have a huge effect on the region, improving transport links to major markets and boosting the economy.
"This remains a region which is all too often left behind by an SNP government with a blinkered central belt focus."