Borders Railway extension backed by small businesses

A group representing small firms in south east Scotland has said it has "little doubt" of the economic benefits of extending the Borders Railway.It comes after a recent independent study found the line was attracting new workers, homeowners and tourists.The Federation of Small Businesses said those conclusions came as no surprise to regular users of the route.

It said the line was a "gift for local events" and had provided a massive boost for visitor numbers.FSB senior development manager for the east of Scotland Gordon Henderson said the reopening of the line had come about due to grassroots campaigning. "This is great encouragement for those in Fife campaigning for the Levenmouth rail link," he said.

He added that the impact on local events in the Borders was clear to see.

'Good use'

"Scotrail put on extra services and extra carriages for the Melrose Sevens this year and they were packed, I was there," he said.He said the line was also encouraging new events like an international music and arts festival in Stow which has a population of just about 700."It isn't just for commuters," he added.

"People use the line for local journeys."Borders folk are travelling between Stow, Gala and Tweedbank for shopping and eating out, great for local businesses." He said Edinburgh and East Lothian residents were also making "good use" of the new link into the city centre from the likes of Brunstane and Newcraighall.

However, he stressed that business had to realise that people could travel in "both directions" on the railway.

"Traders in Melrose initially reported seeing many new faces thanks to the line but latterly reported many locals had discovered shopping in Edinburgh at the weekends," he said

'Simmering rivalry'

Mr Henderson said there were a number of ways to build on the success of the route, one of which was to provide increased capacity."Trains on the Borders Railway desperately need more than two carriages," he said.

He also urged businesses to learn how the line could benefit them and came down in favour of taking the track on into Cumbria."The Scottish government is producing a feasibility study looking at extending the line through Hawick to Carlisle," he said.

"But we're in little doubt the economic benefits would be huge."However, Mr Henderson said he would "steer well clear" of suggesting whether that route should pass through Newcastleton or Langholm due to the "simmering rivalry" between the two towns.