1 Melrose local train. Courtesy of Frank Spaven

Borders’ Line construction commences

Published 15th May 2013

Campaigner urges fine running of facilities

The partial rebuilding, between Edinburgh and Tweedbank, of the former Waverley Line which linked Edinburgh and Carlisle, has now commenced. The whole route was closed in 1969 after several years of protest and the start of physical works was marked with a ceremonial event at the Monktonhall work site. Those present included the Scottish Parliament Transport Minister Keith Brown and Network Rail’s Managing Director David Simpson.

The mainly single track 30 mile long Borders Railway will run from Newcraighall to Tweedbank and will have three long sections of double track acting as loops to allow trains to pass. These are required to allow the two trains an hour planned ScotRail service running to and from Edinburgh which means the line will be running nearly at maximum capacity from day 1.

First train for 40 years

It will re-establish a passenger rail link for the first time in over 40 years from Edinburgh through Midlothian to Tweedbank. railway with three existing stations and seven new ones at Shawfair, Eskbank, Newtongrange, Gorebridge, Stow, Galashiels and Tweedbank.

Network Rail is delivering the £294m project on behalf of the Scottish Government and aims to provide a fast and efficient alternative to the congested local road network. Journey-time is expected to be under an hour from end to end at peak times.

The principal contractor is BAM Nuttall and the first works were the excavation of the track alignment through the Monktonhall area and the excavation of the new Shawfair station site. The earthworks programme will create the line of route and base for the railway will be progressed along the route until the end of the year. This was enabled after six-months of advance preparations including a considerable amount of mining remediation work in the old Monktonhall colliery area.

They said

Transport Minister Keith Brown said: “Our delivery of the Borders Railway is bringing communities along the route back into the rail network for the first time in over 40 years.

“The start of the construction works is a hugely exciting milestone and will allow those communities to witness the scheme coming to life. “I very much look forward to seeing the Borders Railway take shape from here with all the social, economic and environmental benefits that will bring for the area.”

David Simpson, Network Rail route managing director for Scotland, added: “The start of the main construction works is a major milestone in the delivery of the new line. “From today, local communities will be able to see their new railway beginning to take shape and we look forward to working with them, our contractors and the Scottish Government to re-establish this vital transport link for the Borders.”

Plea for fine tuning

Railway author and commentator David Spaven has urged the Scottish Government to fine-tune the Borders’ Line specification to maximise patronage by local residents and visitors alike .Mr. Spaven, whose history of the 1969 closure of the railway and the subsequent re-opening campaign was published last year, says that mistakes made during the 2011 re-opening of the Airdrie-Bathgate line must be avoided before trains start running from Edinburgh to Galashiels and Tweedbank in 2015:

The Airdrie-Bathgate line was designed without any real thought for the safety and convenience of passengers accessing its new stations on foot and by bike. The whole exercise was conducted as if car drivers were the only important source of business for the new railway, with neither Transport Scotland nor the Local Authorities taking proper responsibility for access by pedestrians and cyclists.

As a result, an expensive retro-fitting of improved paths and safety measures is now being undertaken. The Borders Railway needs to get this right from Day 1 and Mr Spaven reckons that the big test case will be how well Scottish Borders Council designs the link across the A7 road between the bus and rail stations at the Galashiels public transport interchange.

Passenger Charters

Mr. Spaven had also previously drawn attention to the lack of route capacity for leisure charter trains on the new line and urged collaboration between Network Rail, ScotRail and charter train operators to ensure that the additional visitor spend brought by these services can be attracted to Midlothian and the Borders.

Transport Minister Keith Brown should take credit for announcing at the November 6 last year at the contract-signing ceremony in response to many years of lobbying by the Campaign for Borders Rail, that the design of the Tweedbank terminus would be enhanced to accommodate 12-coach charter trains.

However, the current route infrastructure planned for the railway provides no spare capacity for charter trains other than the standard ScotRail service apart from evenings and Sundays. Most charter trains arrive on Saturdays at Scottish destinations in the middle of the day so key stakeholders in the Borders Railway need to come up with innovative ideas to accommodate this important market.

Each train can bring 500 visitors to the area and in 2009, there were more than 80 charter train arrivals at Scottish destinations (excluding football or rugby specials and the Royal Scotsman luxury land cruise).

Borders’ Local attractions

Edinburgh was the most popular destination and two thirds of the special trains came from England, bringing entirely new spend to the destination locations and estimated that at least £500,000 would be spent by passengers when the new line opens. The Borders line has the National Mining Museum at Newtongrange, Sir Walter Scott’s Abbotsford and the Borders Abbeys to attract visitors from charter trains for example.

Read all about it

David Spaven’s second book, Waverley Route: the life, death and rebirth of the Borders Railway, was published by Argyll Publishing in 2012.

Written by Phil Marsh

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