SBC cash pledge to ease Stow safety fears

When MSPs agreed in 2006 to include a stop at Stow as part of the restored railway project, Scottish Borders Council had concerns it would be incompatible with the village primary school, which had opened next to the original station building just six years earlier.

Indeed, two other possible sites for the little station were investigated, but were dismissed because of road safety and flooding concerns.

Councillors were reminded of these misgivings last week when they were told they had a duty of care to the school and its 100 primary and nursery pupils. A report indicated that measures under
taken and paid for by Network Rail to mitigate the impact of the railway on the school 
were not enough to meet the concerns of staff and 
parents.

These included the provision of footpaths in the school grounds and the erection of a three-metre-high barrier to ensure lessons were not disturbed by the noise of trains, the platform tannoy and vehicles using the 34-place station car park.

Jonathan Hepton, SBC’s railway liaison manager, said the effectiveness of that barrier would only be gauged when test trains started running in the summer.

He said Network Rail’s CCTV cameras would not extend beyond the station perimeter and that more people and traffic would be generated if the station buildings were used for new purposes, such as a bike hire centre and café.

“Additional traffic, the potential for trespass and train incidents are some of the concerns that have been raised by school staff and parents, now that works are well advanced and their impact can be more readily determined,” reported Mr Hepton.

“Arising from the council’s duty of care, officers have considered the current situation which includes poor school traffic arrangements, lack of safety features, such as CCTV, and low quality and degraded perimeter fencing.”

SBC’s executive committee agreed it had no option but to spend £97,490 to address these issues.

The cash, the bulk of which will be spent in the coming financial year, will come from “emergency and uncommitted council funds”.

A new wire mesh perimeter fence will cost £40,000, CCTV to cover the school will cost £6,785 and a permanent traffic barrier, to keep rail-related vehicles out of school grounds, will cost another £11,000.

Mr Hepton said although Network Rail had been invited to financially contribute to the measures, it had declined on the basis that any additional works were outside its scope.

“These works will ensure the council has made reasonable provision…to address the concerns that have been raised,” he added.