The Borders rail project has reached a significant milestone with the first phase of refurbishment of Bowshank Tunnel now complete.
The works at the site north of Galashiels, which started in October 2013, saw the Borders Railway construction team carry out masonry and concrete spraying.
Only around one tenth of the old brickwork needed to be removed or replaced.
The second phase of work, which is due to start soon, will see the construction team lower the floor of the tunnel by 400mm.
This work will be done ahead of the track slab being laid later in the project.
The tunnel structure, which runs for 200m, will play a vital role in connecting the new railway, and joins the 62m-long Torwoodlee Tunnel, in being one of two historic tunnel structures being refurbished to help bring the structures up to modern standards.
Network Rail project director, Hugh Wark, says much of the work on the two tunnels involves strengthening what is already there, with only a small proportion of the brick work actually needing replaced.
“It really goes to show how well built the historic structures along the line are,” said Mr Wark this week.
“The next phases of work will ensure that the tunnels help serve the railway for many years to come.”
The work at Bowshank and Torwoodlee is being carried out by BAM Nuttall, using its specialist supplier, BAM Ritchies, for the concrete spraying, and local supplier Forth Stone for the masonry repairs.
Back in September, Borders Railway bosses had to use ecology experts to help protect a small group of bats residing in the 165-year-old tunnel between Stow and Galashiels ahead of renovation works.
The work saw one-way ‘bat flaps’ and ‘bat pipes’ installed to cavities in the tunnel to allow the bats to leave.
Although no breeding or hibernation roosts were discovered, some Soprano pipistrelle and Myotis bats were found to be temporarily residing in spaces, such as those once used by railway workers who sought safety from passing trains.
Funded by the Scottish Government, the Borders Railway will re-establish passenger railway services for the first time in over 40 years from Edinburgh through Midlothian to Tweedbank.
The new line will include 30 miles of passenger railway with 10 stops, including seven new stations, allowing passengers to travel direct from Tweedbank to Edinburgh Waverley.