Red light for railway whingers as signal turns green for work to begin

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THE buffers have been shown to doubters who argued that the restoration of a Borders railway was a non-starter, writes Bob Burgess.

That’s the signal from Scottish Borders Council (SBC) leader David Parker following news that a multi-million pound contract for the construction of the Edinburgh-Tweedbank line has been signed and sealed – and will be delivered by the summer of 2015 at the latest.

Network Rail has confirmed that the £220million project has been awarded to construction company BAM Nuttall whose previous work includes Olympic Games venues and major refurbishment of the London Underground.

Project hubs will be established at Tweedbank, Fountainhall and Monktonhall, and simultaneous on-site construction will begin early next year.

Councillor Parker told TheSouthern: “This now closes the door on any arguments or debates about the railway being delivered. It will happen and the railway will be delivered.”

He said he didn’t know of any major capital spending scheme such as the Borders railway that hadn’t found opponents.

But he added: “When major works get under way, they will see why so many people have worked so hard for so long to make this railway come to fruition.”

Network Rail is the owner-operator of Britain’s railways and is delivering the Borders route on behalf of the Scottish Government after a private bill, promoted by SBC, in conjunction with Edinburgh City and Midlothian councils, was approved by Holyrood in June 2006.

The £220million price tag is an old one and the cost at 2012 prices has been estimated at £294million.

Costs have risen and the timetable for the first trains has slipped considerably – leading to criticism from those opposed to the reopening of a 30-mile section of the Waverley Line which came under the Beeching axe in January 1969.

It is expected that 500 jobs – mostly construction – will be created by the work, which includes seven new stations.

And plans by Nuttall to meet local companies before work gets under way is being seen as a welcome boost for the local economy.

The first passenger trains are due to run along the single-track line in the summer of 2015, but Scotland’s transport minister, Keith Brown, hopes it could be earlier.

On the right track – page 3