Plans to reverse some 1960s cuts to Britain's railways - including a connection to Carlisle - could have been handed a political boost.

Transport Secretary Chris Grayling today said the routes closed during the notorious Beeching cuts of the 1960s could be reopened.

It's an announcement that could give real impetus to the already strong campaign to extend the Borders Railway from Tweedbank to Carlisle.

The campaign is being fuelled by the success of the 2015 reopening of part of the old Waverley Line between Edinburgh and the city, which was one of the casualties of the controversial Beeching programme. That first stretch from the Scottish capital cost £294m.

Mr Grayling says the Government is investing in the biggest modernisation of the railways in more than a century.

But Labour's shadow transport minister, Andy McDonald ,has poured cold water over the prospects of axed lines being revived across the country - though travel lobby groups are enthused

Mr McDonald said: "The Tories' record is of delayed, downgraded and cancelled investment, huge disparities in regional transport spending and soaring fares that are pricing passengers off the railway.

"This unambitious strategy stands in contrast to Labour's plan to upgrade and expand the rail network across the country."

With the cost of regulated fares such as season tickets and standard returns increasing by 3.6 per cent in the new year, Mick Cash, leader of the Rail, Maritime and Transport union, claimed it is "no good building new lines if no-one can afford to travel on them".
Mick Cash, general secretary of the Rail, Maritime and Transport union (RMT)

He added: "This will be just more broken promises on rail, with the private operators laughing all the way to the bank and the British passenger continuing to pay the highest fares in Europe to travel on rammed out, unreliable and unsafe services."

There is cross-border support for the extension of the Borders Railway, with Carlisle City Council leader Colin Glover among its backers.

It may come with the prospect of a station being opened at Longtown, where community leaders have been involved in talks to see how the cash could be pulled together to make it happen.

Any talks over finance will undoubtedly involve the governments at Westminster and in the Scottish Parliament.

Bruce Williamson, of campaign group Railfuture, welcomed the suggestion that lines could reopen.

He said: "It seems that the Government is finally recognising the need to invest in rail because so often when you hear about transport investment it almost always means more road building.

"Let's hope that there is a stronger emphasis on rail this time.

"The demand is there. Where reopenings have happened, particularly in Scotland, they have generally-speaking exceeded all expectations."

Stephen Joseph, chief executive of the Campaign for Better Transport, warned that it is "desperately difficult to reopen a rail line".

He said: "This announcement needs to be backed both with new investment and a commitment to guiding local authorities through the sometimes labyrinthine processes of the railway."

There have also long been calls to reopen another Beaching