THE chairman of Campaign for Borders Rail does not believe the biggest engineering project associated with the £300million line will cause traffic chaos.
From June, work will begin on building a tunnel beneath the Edinburgh City Bypass, close to one of the busiest roundabouts in the country, at Sheriffhall.
It is expected that up to 50,000 motorists will be diverted along a two-lane carriageway during the works, which are due to be completed by May 2014. But Simon Walton, head of the main rail supporters group, played down fears that commuting Borderers will suffer significant delays when travelling to the capital and beyond.
He told TheSouthern: “This is probably the biggest civil engineering project to be undertaken on the line.
“From previous experience, I am confident that the work will be organised so that it causes as little inconvenience to drivers on the Edinburgh City Bypass as possible.
“However, it does say something of the folly of compromising railway infrastructure of old by not making provision for future developments.
“It has meant the project (tunnel) will be a great expense and a lot of work has to be done.”
A double track section will be built within the 42-metre wide tunnel, which will be excavated beneath the A720 road, 200 metres east of Sheriffhall Roundabout.
Network Rail project director Hugh Wark said: “There will be a lot of interest in how we build the railway under the city bypass due to the heavy traffic which can already back up in that area. We believe that the plan, which has the full backing of Transport Scotland, provides a viable temporary solution which will prevent further traffic delays.”
Remediation work is ongoing at the former Monktonhall Colliery in Midlothian, with similar projects in line at Newtongrange and Gorebridge.
Another five applications to build bridges near Ferniehirst Cottages and Bow Farm in Stow, Torsonce Mains near Galashiels, and a further two in Heriot, have also been submitted this week.
That brings the total number of Borders Railway crossings in the planning process with Scottish Borders Council to 22.
Ahead of the bridge construction, significant vegetation work has also taken place at Fountainhall and Falahill, where new roads will be built.
And tree removal will take place in Tweedbank this month, ahead of the summer 2015 deadline for the railway to be completed.
Network Rail’s communications manager for the project, Craig Bowman, said: “The devegetation works highlight the significant progress of the railway at even this early stage.
“The project is committed to delivering appropriate landscaping and planting ahead of the opening of the railway in 2015.
“We will continue to keep residents advised of upcoming work as construction moves forward.”
Mr Walton, who lives in Fountainhall, added: “There is a lot of work going on up and down the line.
“It is at a very early stage at the moment and there is a lot to be done, but I am pleased with the progress Network Rail have made.”
Last week, TheSouthern revealed that 2,229 applications were made for just 18 trainee train driver posts with the railway.Borders MSP Christine Grahame believed it was a good sign and while Mr Walton agreed, he also felt it was an indication of the lack of jobs across the country.
He said: “I think 2,229 is a staggering figure and shows two things – that a rail career is an ambition for a great number of people, and it is also a sign of the large number of people seeking gainful employment.”