CAMPAIGNERS aiming to fully restore a rail route from Edinburgh to Carlisle have marked 50 years since its closure.

Members of the Campaign for Borders Rail met at Tweedbank last Saturday afternoon to commemorate the closure of the ‘Waverley Route’ and mark the anniversary with a fresh push to extend the line through Hawick and south to Carlisle.

To mark the occasion, members travelled down from Edinburgh to Tweedbank on a special charter train with a Class 50 engine - the same model that was used on the Waverley Route - and used the opportunity to reaffirm their plans to restore the entire line.

The last scheduled services to run on the former route departed Edinburgh for London on January 5, 1969.

That train was an overnight sleeper service that was famously blockaded at Newcastleton in the early hours of January 6, in show of widespread anger at the loss of the cross-Border rail services.

In September 2015, part of the line reopened between the Scottish capital and Tweedbank, and since then campaigners have continued to push politicians both in the Borders and Cumbria to fully restore the line off the back of its success.

They say by bringing a number of communities in both Scotland and England, back on to the national rail network, it will provide the region with a tangible means to reverse the decades of economic decline, and allow those communities to thrive again.

Simon Walton, chairman of the campaign group, said there is growing recognition of the tangible part rail services can play in the regeneration of the Borders, and that the ambitions of the campaign are closer than ever to being realised.

He said: “The phenomenal success of the Borders Railway is a clarion call to governments on both sides of the border. Rail services work as a catalyst for economic development.

“Now, with the campaign’s aims firmly on the agenda in both Holyrood and Westminster, and a cornerstone of the Borderlands Growth Initiative, it’s time to build on that success by committing to realising this vital new infrastructure through a beautiful but economically blighted part of the United Kingdom.”

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Simon added that membership of the Campaign for Borders Rail now at an all-time high, with a broad consensus across communities, business and governments.

Mr Walton said there was more reason than ever for optimism for Carlisle residents.

“We are closer than ever to seeing a new strategic cross-border rail link established, and the benefits of that will be felt keenly, not only in the region, but by the economy across the entire UK rail network,” he added.