CAMPAIGNERS who are calling for the Borders Railway to be completed between Tweedbank, Hawick and Carlisle say they have been ‘vindicated’ by a new report from the High Speed Rail Group for submission to the National Infrastructure Commission, which recommends the completion of the railway on the grounds of ‘economic regeneration, social inclusion, and strategic deployment of network capacity made possible by the construction of HS2’.
The High Speed Rail Group is a consortium of industry leaders from contractors, universities and consultants which is pressing for the full HS2 network to be built as planned from London to Manchester and Leeds, but then potentially extended further north.
The new report was commissioned by the HSRG from High Speed Rail lobbyists Greengauge 21, and it says that ‘early studies demonstrated the sound economic case for high-speed rail to serve cross-border travel markets’ between England and Scotland. It also points out that something better than the present main lines will be needed, saying: ‘The cross-border routes are operating at their capacity limits. Operational reliability is poor as a consequence. Lancaster, on the West Coast Main Line, has the worst on-time train performance in Britain.’
The report‘s author Jim Steer said it is ‘essential’ that Britain focuses on a ‘green recovery’ from the pandemic. He continued: ‘Over the past two months we have all seen the positive impact on air quality and the environment. While we now focus on our economic recovery, we cannot lose sight of the carbon-cutting goals we have set ourselves.’
The report also claims that ‘from a Scottish stand-point, the advantage of high-speed links across the border to England doesn’t just rest on the opportunity to provide a substitute for short-haul air travel in the very large Glasgow/Edinburgh-London travel market. It also arises from the economic advantage of creating stronger links between city pairs such as Glasgow-Manchester and Edinburgh-Newcastle.’
One of a number of recommendations is the completion of the Borders Railway through to Carlisle.
Campaign for Borders Rail chairman Simon Walton said: ‘The strategic importance of an extended Borders Railway, as an asset for the entire network, has been recognised at its true value in this report. The Campaign has always argued that a new cross-border rail link will be of benefit far beyond the Borders. Building the railway will not just be a tremendous fillip for the communities it directly serves, it will be an asset that helps solve challenges of capacity and reliability all over the network.’