Jim Steer, director of industry coalition the High Speed Rail Group, has reiterated its support for extension of the Borders Railway as a means to guarantee cross-border trade and facilitate three-hour journeys between London and Glasgow, Edinburgh and the Borderlands.
Writing a guest column in the latest edition of the Campaign for Borders Rail newsletter, Jim Steer says a shift in emphasis, to make Carlisle a connecting hub for future HS2 services, not only puts Cumbria on the High Speed map, but it also makes a completed Borders Railway a vital part of the national network.
He said that, once HS2 was complete and integrated with improved railway infrastructure northwards to Scotland: “With Carlisle-London journey times reduced to a little over two hours, and the Borders Railway fully re-instated, journey times from the Borders towns could be dramatically shortened – to London as well as to other major cities in England. Inward travel for tourists to the Borders region would be dramatically enhanced too.”
Simon Walton, chairman of the Campaign for Borders Rail, said the recognition of the strategic importance of a completed Borders Railway was entirely in line with the Campaign’s position.
“Completing the Borders Railway, through Hawick and on to Carlisle provides a nationally important infrastructure asset,” he stated. “It is also hugely beneficial to the Borderlands region and a force for economic and social regeneration for communities at a local level.”
Rail freight traffic has become an increasingly important part of the business case for the completed Borders Railway. In his column, Jim Steer said that freight traffic routed through and also originating in the Borderlands is becoming more commercially attractive: “Freight companies crave service dependability. Investing in the rail option has to work, every day, year-round. Having a usable alternative route north of Carlisle to reach the freight terminals in Scotland’s central belt will be a real boost to market confidence.”