Published: 13th October 2014
Track is expected to be fully laid over 30 miles of the Borders Railway before Christmas. This was announced on Thursday 9 October when Scotland’s Transport Minister, Keith Brown MSP, and the chief executive of Network Rail, Mark Carne, inspected the new station at Shawfair on the outskirts of Edinburgh.
They professed themselves pleased with progress to deliver train services between Edinburgh and Tweedbank, near Melrose, by September 2015.
They watched a new track-laying machine rolling rails out on the stretch serving Shawfair station. It is capable of placing rails for more than one kilometre of track a day.
The machine, operated by the main contractor BAM, will install rails onto more than 90,000 sleepers. The longest new domestic railway built in Britain in more than a century, the Scottish Government’s project will re-establish passenger services for the first time in more than 45 years on a significant stretch of the former Waverley Route.
The visitors were impressed with the new station at Shawfair, on a new diversion from the original route that is otherwise followed by the new line through Midlothian to the Scottish Borders Council area. After track has been laid there will still be construction work to complete and signalling to be installed.
From 6 September 2015, trains between Edinburgh Waverley and Newcraighall will be extended to Tweedbank through stations at Shawfair, Eskbank, Newtongrange, Gorebridge, Stow and Galashiels.
Mark Carne, chief executive of Network Rail, commented: “The installation of track on this route puts rail services within touching distance for thousands of potential passengers in Midlothian and the Scottish Borders.”
Mr Carne added: “By the end of this year, rails will connect seven stations along the route to the national railway network for the first time in 45 years. When services start running next September, the railway will form a new economic artery for the region, providing opportunities for employment, education and tourism.”
Mr Brown said: “This project isn’t just about building a railway. It’s about restoring links for communities that will result in employment, study and social opportunities. The installation of the tracks sees that long-held aspiration for the Borders and Midlothian becoming a tangible reality.”
The Minister added that construction was due to be completed next summer in good time for the September opening when “the new railway will offer a fast and efficient alternative to the congested local road network, allowing passengers to travel from Tweedbank to Edinburgh in around an hour at peak times”.
Mr Brown concluded: “This time next year, for the first time in almost half a century, people will be travelling by train between Edinburgh, Midlothian and the Borders – a hugely proud achievement for those who have worked so hard to deliver this railway and an exciting development for these communities.”
Improvements to Scottish train services have been announced by the Scottish Government’s agency Transport Scotland.
The new ScotRail timetable from 14 December 2014 will include additional seats at peak times, faster schedules for some trains serving Glasgow, significant changes to Argyle Line timings through Glasgow Central Low Level platforms and other improvements.
Preparations for the new Borders Railway project are included although it is not scheduled to open between Edinburgh, Newcraighall and Tweedbank until September 2015.
Faster timings will include most trains between Lanark and Glasgow and the newly electrified route between Whifflet and Glasgow. The latter will enjoy new links to the west side of Glasgow. Whifflet will get Sunday trains for the first time. There will be an additional Sunday service linking Oban and Glasgow all year round.
An additional early morning train from Lanark to Glasgow on weekdays is intended to give passengers a new connection for London, around one hour earlier than before. Leaving Lanark at 06:16, this will call at Motherwell at 06:39. A connection with Virgin Trains is expected to leave Motherwell at 06:44, due in London Euston at 11:14, although precise times for Virgin Trains are still awaiting confirmation, according to the National Rail website.
Cumbernauld and Hamilton will be linked directly as a result of existing First ScotRail services being extended through Motherwell. Other Lanarkshire changes will see more trains serving Newton and Cambuslang and a new evening peak service between Glasgow, Motherwell and Carstairs.
The statutory consumer body, Passenger Focus, has welcomed the timetable changes. Robert Samson, the PF manager who monitors ScotRail issues, said: “Our recent passenger priorities research told us that passengers really want to get a seat on train services that are more frequent and have better journey times. These timetable enhancements will help deliver those priorities.”
Steve Montgomery, Managing Director of First ScotRail, said:
“The new timetable, which features significant enhancements, reflects all the good work we are doing for Scotland's railway and the partnership approach to investment across our network.
“It also comes as record numbers of people are travelling by train and we believe that the benefits which this timetable delivers will encourage even more people to regularly use our services.”
Keith Brown MSP, Scotland’s Transport Minister, said that rail travel in Scotland is more popular than ever and the new timetable would help passengers:
“It includes the introduction of what will become the Borders Railway timetable, including a seamless transition for existing passengers on the route, and comes on the back of the Aberdeen and Inverurie timetable enhancements launched in the summer, showing we’re improving rail links the length and breadth of Scotland.”