A SEVEN month long study has been launched to explore the potential of extending an historic Scottish railway to link with world famous Settle to Carlisle line.

It could lead to the full restoration of the 98 miles Borders Railway - commonly known as the Waverley route - between Edinburgh and Carlisle.

The first 35 miles, as far as Tweedbank, re-opened in 2015 and has been a huge success story, carrying over 20,000 passengers a week.

The full link - possibly taking ten years to achieve - would provide an alternative rail route between Leeds and Edinburgh.

It would open car-free access to market towns along the Settle-Carlisle line from southern Scotland and to the Borders country from West and North Yorkshire, a boost to tourism and the rural economies.

And it would give a railway offering world-class scenery for much of the 211 miles from Leeds to Edinburgh, attracting huge numbers of international tourists.

Steve Broadbent, director of the Settle-Carlisle Railway Development Company, said: “A through Leeds-Carlisle-Edinburgh train service would be a ‘must-do experience’ for tourists, 200 miles of breath-taking British scenery.

"This key market for rail travel needs to be properly reflected in Borders Railway re-opening evaluations. The Scottish and Westminster governments must work closely together to maximise the potential of a fully re-opened Anglo-Scottish route.”

Putting it into historical context, Mark Rand, Joint Vice Chairman of the 3500-member Friends of the Settle-Carlisle Line said: “People often ask why did the Victorians build a railway line from tiny Settle to the border city of Carlisle.

"It was part of a much greater whole - the Midland Railway's main route from London St Pancras to Scotland via Leeds and Carlisle, from where what is today called the Borders Railway continued to Edinburgh.

The study was announced by Scotland's Transport Minister and will als look at how to improve access from the Scottish Borders to key markets in Edinburgh, Carlisle and Newcastle.

The Borders Railway was historically known as the Waverley route because of its connection with Scottish author Sir Walter Scott.