A vision of the future that’s now on track to become reality three years down the line

JOBS for locals and deals for Borders businesses are on the way as final preparations begin for construction of the rail link between Edinburgh and Tweedbank.

The signing of a multi-million pound deal last week by Network Rail and construction giants BAM Nuttall puts the controversial project on track for completion in the summer of 2015 with an expected price tag of £294million.

The link between Edinburgh Waverley and the Borders will see seven new stations created – Shawfair, Eskbank, Newtongrange, Gorebridge, Stow, Galashiels and Tweedbank. A station at Stow wasn’t in the original plan and was only added after a local campaign.

Experts reckon that 500 jobs will be created. And while Nuttall will bring in many of their own specialists, Network Rail say that from their experience, gained from the construction of the Bathgate to Airdrie line, a large number of jobs for locals will be created.

And Nuttall has confirmed that it will meet with local firms and suppliers before construction work begins early in the new year.

Chief executive of BAM Nuttall, Stephen Fox, commented: “This scheme brings together the engineering strengths of our group and will create significant local employment opportunities.”

And the rail link won’t be developed along formal construction lines – starting at one end and finishing at the other.

That system was used from Bathgate to Airdrie. But TheSouthern has learned that simultaneous work will take place along its 30-mile length. This method wasn’t possible on the Bathgate-Airdie line because of existing train services, but is possible here because of the virgin nature of the route.

Main project hubs will be created at Tweedbank, Fountainhall and Monktonhall. Network Rail confirmed these would not be construction camps but bases for managers and the storage of some machinery and materials.

Scotland’s transport minister Keith Brown commented: “This is a very exciting milestone for a community that has waited over 40 years for the return of the railway. All the partners will continue to work to see if we can find a way to deliver the project even earlier than 2015.

Nuttall’s appointment has been welcomed by council leader David Parker – it was Scottish Borders Council which promoted a private Bill that was approved by Holyrood in 2006.

He told TheSouthern: “Nuttall has been the lead designer of the project and played a significant part in it’s development in recent years. Its people understand the Borders railway extremely well so its appointment as construction contractor is very welcome.

“The railway’s development is fantastic news both in terms of economic benefits and the huge improvement in transport links.”