CAMPAIGNERS have issued a plea that the official royal opening of the new Borders Railway today [Wed] should mark a fresh push to extend the line south to Hawick and Carlisle.

The Edinburgh Waverley to Tweedbank line opened to the public on Sunday, exactly 46 years and eight months to the day since its predecessor the Waverley Route was axed as part of the Beeching cuts.

The Waverley Route provided direct rail services between Edinburgh, the Borders, North Yorkshire and London St Pancras for 107 years until 1969, including stops at Hawick and Carlisle which campaigners want to see restored.

Simon Walton, chair of the Campaigner for Borders Rail, said: "Hawick is the Borders town which has suffered most from the loss of the old Waverley Route in 1969. And to meet its full potential, the Borders also needs a direct rail link to the South.

"The key benefits of southwards extension would include social inclusion, economic regeneration and tourism opportunities – and sustainable transport for timber from Kielder and the Borders forests, getting log lorries off the roads.

"And a reinstated railway through to Carlisle would provide a strategic diversionary route, relieving pressure on the busy West Coast Main Line."

The Scottish Government have not ruled out a future extension of the line, but Cabinet Secretary for Infrastructure Keith Brown said last week that he wanted to make the existing Borders Railway a success first.

The call comes as the Queen arrives in Edinburgh for the official opening of the Borders Railway. The monarch, who will celebrate a record-breaking reign today, will journey by steam train from Edinburgh Waverley to Tweedbank joined by the Duke of Edinburgh and First Minister Nicola Sturgeon.

The Borders Railway, which cost £294 million, is the longest new rail line to open in Scotland since the Fort William-Mallaig route in 1901.