THE proposed new transport interchange project is the best thing that could happen to Galashiels, according to the chairman of both the town’s chamber of trade and the project consultation group.
David Houston, who helms both bodies, was speaking in the wake of a move by Scottish Borders Council, in which the town’s bus station has become the subject of a compulsory purchase order from the local authority to ensure the transport interchange scheme is completed in time for the reopening of the Borders rail link in three years.
The CPO notice was sent to owners of the station, which is in Galashiels’ Stirling Street, at the end of last week, together with a copy of the council’s reasons for issuing it.
The owners are First Group PLC, while the current occupiers are First Scotland East Ltd.
A copy of the reasons has also been forwarded to the SBC Contact Centre in Galashiels where the CPO and map are available for public viewing.
Construction of the transport interchange and the regeneration of Stirling Street are part of the multi-million-pound Galashiels Inner Relief Road Project.
The council has been negotiating with the owners of the bus station site with a view to acquiring it as part of this project. However, in a statement issued to TheSouthern this week, the local authority explained it had been decided to pursue a compulsory purchase order in parallel with these negotiations in order to ensure that the interchange is completed for the opening of the Borders railway in 2014.
Paul Thomas, managing director for First in Scotland East, told The Southern: “We can confirm we have received notification and we are currently in dialogue with Scottish Borders Council.”
A key aspect of the Borders railway project, the interchange has been backed by more than £2.1million from the coffers of the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF), while the Scottish Borders Rural Business Site Development was granted almost £950,000.
SBC is providing the remaining £5.6million to complete the Stirling Street development, which forms the final element of the Galashiels roads improvement scheme.
The transport interchange will provide co-ordinated changes in methods of travel, for example from rail to bus, taxi, car, bike and walking. Mr Houston says the project is the best thing that could happen to Galashiels at this particular moment.
“They need to get their fingers out and get on and build this,” Mr Houston told TheSouthern this week.
“It will help bring people back into Galashiels town centre and that’s what’s needed right now.”
Mr Houston said he did not think the CPO was being sought because the bus company was dragging its feet over the development.
“I think there are other things, such as the design work, that have caused the delay and the CPO should have perhaps been on the go a while ago. If First gets a lovely new bus station out of it, I’m sure they’ll be happy.”
First is also a member of the consultation group, which Mr Houston chairs.
He added: “The big exhibition that was held in the Volunteer Hall went down really well. Bringing more people into the town centre via Douglas Bridge is something the town definitely needs to help revitalise things.
“And the transport interchange will be a signature building that says ‘Welcome to Gala’.”