On November 21 we had a visitation of representatives of the railway project to Heriot village hall.
They were from Scottish Borders Council, British Transport Police and Network Rail, which has just taken over the project.
It was well attended and, as an information meeting, it was fine. However, I was aware that many of the questions being asked by us related to property and design issues that have been poorly addressed so far and the opinions of the local community ignored or resisted.
Two road bridges are to be restored – to the south at Hangingshaw and the north at Shoestanes. The northern one will not be connected to the road network, so a third new crossing is being made, to inappropriate motorway standards and with a huge ‘dam’ across the valley, close to the Hangingshaw one.
A new underpass for pedestrians at Heriot station only reaches one side of the A7, not both, as we suggested. This means the school bus will still need to come into the village by a much longer route. The opportunity to make a loop for all buses to route through the village is being squandered and a more expensive proposal being enacted. The bus is important to us as our present perfectly good platform is to be removed.
The railway designers have not figured out a way to stop their trains so that passengers can be picked up. I thought this was what a railway was for.
There is another strange idea to put two roundabouts north of Heriot on the A7. At least one of these has no purpose.
We are vigorously opposed to any street lights in what is currently an unpolluted Dark Skies Zone and fear that these new junctions will require them for safety. Arguably, it is safer not to disturb a driver’s night vision, but the project representatives were not there to debate this and could not inform either – one said there were to be lights, the other that there were not.
The acquisition of property has been botched with several residents being driven from the area, as only one has been allowed a new house plot in Heriot. Another as close to the line as the ones compulsory purchased has been strangely ignored. An insensitive purgatory.
A farmer was unimpressed with the stock fencing installed and flooding issues that the Scottish Environment Protection Agency cannot solve to date will need to be solved by this project.
We are only asking for a proper dialogue before expensive mistakes are made. Mistakes which will further alienate the local community.
(secretary, Heriot Community Company)