SEPTEMBER is here already and, with it, one of the most exciting local events any of us in the Borders will ever have witnessed.

It’s not every day a new railway is opened – and by Her Majesty The Queen!

I believe this major infrastructure development represents a vital economic and social opportunity for our region.

One which we must grasp with both hands.

I know there are still some nay-sayers amongst us who have their doubts about the re-opening of the Waverley Line.

In my opinion, they are wrong to be negative. Their concerns seem to stem, first of all, from the fact that the line stops at Tweedbank and does not go on to join the main lines to the south and, secondly, their belief that the money would have been better spent on our roads.

On the first point, let me say that the Scottish Borders Chamber of Commerce , whilst welcoming the arrival of the railway, has also called (and will continue to call) for the extension of the line to Carlisle.

The greatest benefit of all from this new railway would be to ensure direct connectivity to the north of England and beyond to the south.  Cross border trading has historically been of great benefit to both economies, especially in the agricultural sector, and since our region is without an efficient road infrastructure, it is vitally important that the Carlisle connection is made. The Chamber will continue to push our elected representatives at all levels for a commitment to the line’s logical extension to Carlisle.

On the second point – railway versus roads – I’ve no doubt our roads infrastructure needs improving. The Chamber repeats this demand at every meeting we have with the Council, MSPs and MPs. But surely we have to celebrate the fact that, at long last, the Borders is no longer one of the largest region’s in all Europe not to be served by a railway. In terms of attracting inward investment to this region and encouraging businesses to start up here, which we all want to see, there can be no stronger positive message than this week’s opening of the line between Tweedbank and Edinburgh.

Many dynamic businesses across the Borders are looking at ways of taking advantage of the railway. Take tourism, for example. Tourism is one of the principal economic engines in our region. The Borders is renowned for its unspoilt beauty, attractive towns and historical sites. This has to be capitalised on and the railway plays right into our hands.

Many tourism-based businesses will benefit directly from the railway. Our transport infrastructure providers are being encouraged to help that process by ensuring that access to all parts of the region is co-ordinated and readily available to those who visit the area by train. This is essential.

But it works both ways. Much of the advance emphasis seems to have been on the people who the trains will bring to the Borders. However, those same trains will also take Borders people and businesses in the opposite direction to Edinburgh, opening up countless opportunities for beneficial economic, commercial and social interactions – and putting the Borders more firmly “on the map”. Only this week, a friend told me he and his wife were planning to go to Edinburgh at the end of the month to see a show and it had suddenly occurred to them that the easiest thing to do would be to take the train. “Take the train”… now doesn’t that sound good!

The Borders is a great place to do business from and one of the loveliest parts of the country to live in. Our new railway can only help boost this reputation. That’s why I - and the 160 businesses the Chamber of Commerce represents - have no hesitation in welcoming its arrival.