New study to consider extending Borders railway to Carlisle

Plans to potentially extend the Borders railway to Carlisle are to be considered, as Transport Scotland has commissioned a new report looking at ways to improve public transport services in the region.

Subject to completion of the mandatory standstill period, Jacobs UK Ltd has been awarded the contract, and will start work on the report later this month. The company predict that it will take around seven months to complete.  

The findings that Jacobs report back will then inform how the Scottish government refreshes its Strategic Transport Projects Review to look into future proposals for Scotland’s transport as a whole.

Today’s news is the first step into extending the line, which has been operating passenger services since September 2015, after RTM revealed at the start of 2016 that passengers were calling for the railway to be tripled in length to accommodate even more customers.

Transport minister Humza Yousaf said: “In the Scottish Government’s Programme for Government a commitment was given to examine the case for an extension of the Borders railway along with improvements to 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.”
Yousaf also asserted that the government wanted to build on the existing Borders railway by considering the option of extending the line to Carlisle, as well as improving access to key markets in to Edinburgh, Carlisle and Newcastle.
“Working with partners in Scottish Borders Council and SEStran, Transport Scotland will identify a range of options for improving transport that can be considered as part of the review of the Strategic Transport Projects Review which will look at future transport infrastructure projects for the whole of Scotland,” Yousaf added.

“These options could include new rail services, improvements to existing road infrastructure and improved public transport provision.”

The change could further boost tourism to the area and improve on the Borders success after it was announced at the start of the year that the railway had helped improve visits to the region by 11% compared to 2015.

Have you got a story to tell? Would you like to become an RTM columnist? If so, click here.


Andrew Gwilt   11/04/2017 at 11:30

If only Beeching didn't close the Waverley Line from Carlisle to Edinburgh Waverley then it would of still exist. But if the Borders line does get the go ahead to be extended to Carlisle. Then it will mean that it could free up freights trains to use the Borders line as well Scotrail trains to operate the Edinburgh Waverley-Carlisle service once the railway line is completed.

Scott Lawrence   11/04/2017 at 12:33

Its a good idea hopefully it gains concent, however the issue of doubling the track in the Tweedbank to Edinburgh section still remains a subject that requires conclusion. if they extend down to Carlise that will add addtional train paths where the single track and the slimed down passing loops under great pressure. Looks like Beeching and his corrupt croonies were wrong all along

Revolting Peasant   11/04/2017 at 12:40

Hawick is probably just a matter of time, and a decision as to where best to site the new station (undoubtedly where Hawick (first) used to be, tucked in behind the Leisure Centre) is the only item for debate... As for extending south to serve the unpopulated moorland, I sadly doubt that a case could ever be made. Freight traffic has dwindled to negligible levels, and Carlisle to Edinburgh via Carstairs has always been competitive with the WR. I'd love to be proved wrong, but I think the extra teens of miles to the Teviot is actually what we'll get.

Lee   11/04/2017 at 13:11

RP, yes, there's certainly a good case for Hawick, but I agree the section south from there doesn't look as good, certainly as far as local traffic is concerned. I think it all depends on how much demand there is for travel from Galashiels, Melrose and Hawick to Carlisle, and I suspect the answer is probably "not very much". As a through route from Edinburgh to Carlisle, I doubt the journey time would be attractive and the quality of rolling stock would probably be poorer than what's already on offer on the WCML. Is there still much logging traffic in the Kielder Forest area that could switch to rail? Otherwise, I think the best argument you could make would be overall network resilience, providing an alternative route to the increasingly crowded WCML. You could also add Gala, Hawick and Melrose to the Sleeper network by splitting/joining at Carlisle, but that's probably an entirely different can of worms that no-one will want to open.

Revolting Peasant   11/04/2017 at 14:13

With the Freight Facilities Grant abolished, the likelihood of English forestry output being consigned by rail is vanishingly small, I think. The Sleeper idea is lovely, if somewhat quaint when weighed against modern day railway operating economics!

Beady Eye   11/04/2017 at 15:08

Good news essentially, if only to confirm that south of Hawick a good business case will be well nigh impossible. The only unknown is just how intensive the post HS2 Anglo-Scottish service will be to Edinburgh and Glasgow. Currently the general timetable is anything but intensive north of Carlisle.

Graham Nalty   11/04/2017 at 15:40

Excellent. I hope they can make a good case for extending the line. The future value as a backup route may well be greater than we now imagine.

Walace58   11/04/2017 at 15:42

Where will the 'Waverley route heritage association' at Whitrope go, perhaps relocate them to the large site at Riccarton? The line goes through forest so perhaps any forestry material can be taken out by rail. The roads on the route are all single carriageway and windy, so rail should be an option. Newcastle on is a biggish town on the line. Would have provided a relief route when the bridge north of Carlisle was damaged last year in the floods! Also if doubled or with sufficient passing places as good a route as the Settle and Carlisle for heritage routings. Definitely should pay for itself. It was worth paying millions this year to reopen the S&C, so why not the Waverley route?

Walace58   11/04/2017 at 16:01

Newcastleton, not Newcastle!

Revolting Peasant   11/04/2017 at 17:04

Walace58, the S&C was reopened after landslip damage, not after 40+ years of complete closure, abandonment and demolition! Not to reopen the S&C would have meant going through the formal closure process, and that's a step too far these days!

Jerry Alderson   11/04/2017 at 19:02

Although the year 1 passenger numbers on the Borders Railway are only about 10% above expectation that is not the key value when building a business case. The revenue is based on passenger kilometres. The operating cost is based on carriage kilometres (and train kilometres for staffing costs). The consultants building the initial business case assumed most passengers would start their journey quite close to Edinburgh and make a short journey. That has bene proven wrong. The reality is that a huge number of passengers started from Tweedbank and Galashiels (or ended the journey there) hence a lot of passengers made a long journey, and seat kilometre occupancy was high. The passenger kilometres and therefore the fare revenue is substantially higher than envisaged, hence the BCR in the business was quite pessimistic. The study looking at extending further south will have the benefit of these figures to hopefully improve accuracy of the business case.

Huguenot   11/04/2017 at 20:33

Let's get to Hawick first, although a route will have to be found round Melrose as the line of the former track has been used for the A6091 Melrose bypass. South of Hawick would be poor value for money. Even more urgent, as Scott Lawrence says, is doubling more of the re-opened line, especially at the northern end. Southbound Borders railway trains frequently have to wait on the main line at Portobello Junction for a late-running northbound train.

Ralph   12/04/2017 at 11:33

There is a great deal of not-very-much-at-all between Hawick and Carlisle. One neglected possibility is to re-engineer the railway from Riccarton Junction to Hexham (also passing through not-very-much-at-all), with a station for the leisure facilities and forestry at Kielder Lake/Forrest. This would give the borders towns a link to Newcastle upon Tyne, a bigger target than Carlisle, and also to the Metro Centre shopping and leisure paradise between Hexham and Newcastle. It would add a few minutes to London trips from the borders as opposed to the Carlisle route, though the bridges at Newcastle and the view of Durham Cathedral might compensate for that. On the downside, journeys to Manchester and Liverpool (and Carlisle) would take longer, and there is Kielder Lake to be avoided - the old route went through where the reservoir is now.

Neil Stewart   12/04/2017 at 11:37

If the Scottish Govt cannot reopen the 5 miles of mothballed line to reconnect the 38,000+ residents of the Levenmouth conurbation on the Fife Coast, with track owned by Network Rail (currently `mothballed'), STAG Reports completed, Fife Circle services extended and huge local support, we can only conclude NO further rail reinstatement can be planned in Scotland. Get the priorities right. The extension to Hawick seems justified, though Carlisle? but that scheme should get in the queue

Revolting Peasant   19/04/2017 at 11:53

Huguenot - the A6091 alignment doesn't present too big a problem, as it's only in the vicinity of Dingleton Road/ High Road, and towards the site of Ravenswood Jct, where the by-pass literally sits atop the line's formation. This amounts to less than 1 km and could be circumvented relatively easily.

Geoffrey Pound   24/04/2017 at 01:13

Even if there was not a lot of traffic between Hawick and Carlisle, it would provide a diversion route for the WCML and there would be no need for a replacement bus service when Engineering work was being done on the main line

Dalesmann   07/06/2017 at 22:25

I posted this on another site but the arguments may also be of interest here. The case to extend the Borders Line to Hawick is probably already proven by the impact that the Borders Line has had in improving tourism to the Borders region served by this line. I have seen commentators saying that the reinstatement of the line south of Hawick would not be possible as there are few settlements to serve along the line from Hawick to Carlisle. I think that this argument is probably flawed as I suspect that most tourists, already using the border line, take the entire journey from the Scottish capital to Tweedbank. I strongly suspect that passenger traffic generated at Carlisle will have a similar traffic pattern, with tourists halting their journey at Hawick or Tweedbank or even travelling the entire line. It's true that traffic generated between Hawick and Carlisle will be very light due to the remote moorland area that the old Waverley route traversed but it will offer spectacular views in its own right and will be attractive in its own right to people visiting the Borders. I suspect that Hawick will greatly benefit from tourist traffic generated in Carlisle and from all stations to the south. (I would be interested to know what percentage of travellers take the entire round trip to Tweedbank as this would probably be replicated by tourists starting their journey at Carlisle.) Certainly this kind of traffic has a fine model in the Settle / Carlisle line which also traverses very remote regions. This line attracts many visitors who tend to break their journey at Appleby ( you could substitute Hawick on the Waverley line) or they take the entire Settle Carlisle experience by travelling along its entire length. Walkers use the many remote stations as starting points for their activity. I see no reason why this would not be true for the Hawick/ Carlisle extension.

Nonsuchmike   19/06/2017 at 14:54

Railway lines do not just serve for passengers; they are important routes for freight each way and also for "diverted" rail traffic. My suggestion is two-fold: yes there must be an extension in the first instance towards Hawick, but this must be accompanied by dualing of the existing Borders line so that there can be freeing up of space and hence time within a revised, more comprehensive timetable. Secondly, it is an insult that the line is traversed solely by a two car coach train. Surely this can be replaced by three cars @ non peak and four cars at peak periods. Graciously managed and properly advertised in advance, this will galvanise again the take up of the services which so overtook the predicted passenger flow less than two years ago.

Confused   10/10/2017 at 08:34

I am looking to move to Milton.... am aware that there is a rail line running through there. Not knowing the area (or lines) is this likely to have any effect on the amount of units using this part of the line? Thanks

Joseph Taylor   20/01/2018 at 21:30

A report was commissioned to assess the feasibility of opening the line throughout,it concluded that Edinburgh to Hawick and Carlisle to Kielder Forest for the timber traffic with a heritage railway inbetween was the only way forward as it wasn't financially viable to open throughout.I'm a member of the WRHA.

Richard B Carter   11/02/2018 at 23:35

Is perhaps the first priority to consider a better junction at the Edinburgh end with the main line as the present layout is a constraint on capacity and punctuality grade separation a costly option but in the future could provide an alternative route to not only Carlisle and dare I say it a direct service for the good people of Dumfries to their Capital city! Using short formed HSTs perhaps, shame we haven’t preserved the engineering masterpieces of our forefathers we lack their vision sadly.

Add your comment


rail technology magazine tv

more videos >

latest rail news

HS2 Ltd: Five tech firms join Innovation Accelerator initiative

11/09/2020HS2 Ltd: Five tech firms join Innovation Accelerator initiative

HS2 Ltd have announced today (11 Sept) the first five revolutionary tech firms that will join HS2 Ltd’s Innovation Accelerator programme. ... more >
Network Rail publish Decarbonisation Plan

11/09/2020Network Rail publish Decarbonisation Plan

Network Rail have released their interim Traction Decarbonisation Network Strategy, illustrating its preliminary recommendations for decarbonisin... more >
Trains kept moving by AWC despite damaged overhead wires

11/09/2020Trains kept moving by AWC despite damaged overhead wires

Avanti West Coast have taken an unlikely option to allow their timetable to run, without delays, despite damaged overhead wires. The operato... more >

last word

Encouraging youngsters to be safe on the railway

Encouraging youngsters to be safe on the railway

This summer, Arriva Group's CrossCountry and the Scout Association joined to launch a new partnership to promote rail safety among young people. Chris Leech MBE, business community manager at the... more > more last word articles >

'the sleepers' daily blog

On the right track, Sulzer is awarded RISAS accreditation for Nottingham Service Centre

29/06/2020On the right track, Sulzer is awarded RISAS accreditation for Nottingham Service Centre

Following an independent audit, Sulzer’s Nottingham Service Centre has been accepted as part of the rail industry supplier approval scheme (RISAS). The accreditation reinforces the high-quality standards that are maintained by Sulzer’s network of independent repair facilities across the UK and further afield in its global network. ... more >
read more blog posts from 'the sleeper' >


The challenge of completing Crossrail

05/07/2019The challenge of completing Crossrail

With a new plan now in place to deliver Crossrail, Hedley Ayres, National Audit Office manager, major projects and programmes, takes a look at ho... more >
Preparing the industry to deliver trains for the future

04/07/2019Preparing the industry to deliver trains for the future

The move to decarbonise the rail network involves shifting to cleaner modes of traction by 2050. David Clarke, technical director at the Railway ... more >
Sunshine future beckons for South Wales Railways, says 10:10 Climate Action’s Leo Murray

02/07/2019Sunshine future beckons for South Wales Railways, says 10:10 Climate Action’s Leo Murray

Smart electrification is the way to boost clean energy resources, argues Leo Murray, director at 10:10 Climate Action. Contractors are clear... more >
Ambition doesn’t have to be expensive, says Midland Connect's Maria Machancoses

02/07/2019Ambition doesn’t have to be expensive, says Midland Connect's Maria Machancoses

The TCR Midlands conference is only days away and tickets are going fast for the sector event of the year at the Vox Conference Centre in Birming... more >

rail industry focus

View all News


Andrew Haines, CE of Network Rail, tells BBC News his organisation could issue future rail franchises

24/06/2019Andrew Haines, CE of Network Rail, tells BBC News his organisation could issue future rail franchises

Andrew Haines, the Chief Executive of Network Rail, has told the Today programme on Radio 4's BBC’s flagship news programme that he wo... more >