Borders rail project not a priority

The Borders rail rebels have certainly pressed Lorne Anton’s go button (letters, September 22).

He just doesn’t get it, does he? He and his associates seem to think money grows on trees. He doesn’t seem to realise that councils and government should prioritise expenditure in this age of austerity and allow only that which is essential to go forward.

With the economy in the worst mess since the 1930s, he wants an unnecessary project which will cost hundreds of millions of pounds to continue, while at the same time cutting essential works such as repairing our worn-out Borders trunk roads. Mr Anton doesn’t seem to realise that this project is primarily a money-making scheme.

Of the three bidders for the project, two have pulled out. Why? We do not know. The monopoly is therefore controlled by a Dutch multinational which is already trying to bump up the cost of the project in the way that German company Bilfinger Berger did with the Edinburgh trams fiasco.

BAM (UK) does not seen to have much experience in transport, however. It operates in seven other sectors. Of the total of BAM(UK)’s revenue, its revenue share of transport amounts to only one per cent. I wonder how many railways they have actually built? Who will run the line when and if it is completed? Will it perchance be Stagecoach, the bus and rail company built on the rip-off that was privatisation? Just like the A68 and A7, public money will be poured into the profits of multinationals – in the case of BEAR, to the American Jacobs Engineering, the English-based Ennestone and French-owned Eurovia.

A nice little earner for whoever builds the line, a nice earner for whoever runs it – all off the backs of the taxpayer.

Mr Anton states that the line will make £500,000 a year. At that rate it will take 600 years just to break even!

Consider the cuts we face in the years ahead. With wages frozen and inflation rising, take home pay for nurses, teachers and public service workers will effectively be cut by 10 per cent this year and next.

Raging inflation will cut Scottish NHS expenditure by £63million next year and by £200million by 2014-15. Scotland’s councils face a £1billion cut in their budget.

Then there is the requirement for a replacement of the Forth Road Bridge – a necessary cost.

Unlike the Humber Bridge with its smooth surface, driving over the Forth Bridge’s surface joints causes wear to the wheel bearings and steering bushes of every vehicle crossing it. It needs replacing.

The cost of this essential project is at present around £1.5billion, and unless creative accounting is used, will likely come in over-budget. It will certainly draw money away from other projects.

I watched Mr Anton with the SNP on ITV’s Lookaround programme. The SNP, of course, favour grand projects to further their case for independence, even if means bankrupting Scotland.

What a shame that the other parties appear to go along with the SNP’s financial retread of the road taken by the The Celtic Tiger. It is called borrowing your way out of debt and does not work because it leads to financial meltdown.

William Loneskie

Oxton

Surely it is time for Scottish Borders Council to give all Council Tax payers the opportunity, via a referendum, to confirm whether or not they wish the Borders railway project to proceed.

When the railway was first discussed, there would be a nice simple question asked: “Would you like a new railway in the Borders.” The answer would obviously be a resounding “Yes.”

Wind the question on a few years and it is possible that many who gave a “Yes” answer would no longer support the project.

It is clear that the central Borders inhabitants will achieve most benefit from a Borders railway, and yet all Council Tax payers will pay one way or another for the project.

Edinburgh Council Tax payers were refused a referendum on whether or not the city should have a tram system. They will be paying for their local authority’s miscalculation for many years to come.

The Edinburgh tram project has doubled in cost – so far and for much less of a structure than was originally planned. The budget for the Borders railway has doubled already.

The Borders railway project relies on thousands of houses being built for part of its funding. It appears that this source of finance is unlikely to be available anytime soon. So where will the money come from?

It shouldn’t be difficult to organise a vote, as the council regularly sends out newsletters to all households. So they could send out voting papers at the same time to keep the costs down.

Hamish I. Carruthers

Carruthers Associates

Gattonside