CAMPAIGNERS pushing to extend the Borders Railway to Carlisle had a lively debate during a 'question time' AGM on Saturday.

The Campaign for Borders Rail (CBR), who aim to bring the Edinburgh to Tweedbank track south to Carlisle, held their meeting with around two hundred members and guests at Hawick High School on Saturday afternoon.

Among the panel were Carlisle MP John Stevenson, 'champion' of the Borderlands Growth Initiative, along with Scottish politicians John Lamont MP and Paul Wheelhouse MSP, who each received an array of questions from audience members.

Simon Walton, the CBR chairman who hosted the public event, said it was a real endorsement of the campaign’s hard work over the past twelve months.

“We invited panelists from all facets of political and civic life to join us at our nineteenth annual general meeting, and they were able to demonstrate that whatever ideological differences they may have, they were in no conflict over the benefits of being part of the national rail network.”

The meeting also heard that the Scottish Government had decided to take forward two rail-based proposals from the recent Borders Transport Corridors Study - identifying Tweedbank to Carlisle as an option for examination, and also look in more detail at a possible link to the East Coast Main Line.

Simon added: “The campaign remains committed to re-establishment of the former ‘Waverley Route’ as the best and most achievable outcome.

“The bottom line is that a new rail service through Hawick and the Scottish Borders will go a long way towards solving many of the economic and social challenges faced by the region.

"It will be the most tangible and achievable way to kick-start that regeneration process, and bring about the best return on investment for the benefit of the widest possible cross-section of the community.”

Most interest was reserved for Carlisle MP John Stevenson, who reiterated his support for the funding of a full feasibility study into reinstating the cross-Border link to Cumbria.

Concluding the question time event, Mr Walton said: “Having the stated support of the new cross-border agency is a vital step forward. The campaign and its members must take credit for pushing that agenda forward.

"John Stevenson did all but pull out his agency’s cheque book, and Paul Wheelhouse reminded us that, while the current agenda puts extension several years down the road, it’s up to the campaign to be ready to present the case for the Borders Railway extension in the eventually of circumstances changing.

"Our policy of informed and rational advocacy has served us well thus far, and will serve the Borders well in the future. We’re closer now than ever to seeing everyone’s ambition achieved.”