Giving it wellie on the railway line

Bowshank section of the new Bordes Railway line.
Bowshank section of the new Bordes Railway line.

If it hadn’t been so sore I would have laughed. On Monday I joined a posse of press people on an all-day tour of what is rapidly becoming the Borders Railway.

We were taken to various points on the 30-mile route of the new – or restored – line from Tweedbank to Shawfair. That’s where one of seven new stations will be created and close to where the track merges with an existing line for Waverley Station.

There is a lot, a real lot, of heavy construction going on all along the line. There are piles of earth almost as high the Eildons (the wee one, and only almost). There are massive diggers, scrapers and bulldozers trundling around some pretty confined spaces. There is much slippery mud and temporary wooden steps going up and down, as steps usually do – but out there on a £350million construction site they go up and down some pretty steep embankments.

There are also explosions, although none on the day of our tour.

But I was issued with a gas monitor to be shared with photographer Stuart Cobley when we entered the long, damp Bowshank Tunnel near Galashiels. At Harden Green we overlooked the traffic on the roundabout below, over the wide gap that will be bridged for the trains, and did it again at Gore Glen. All the time we were aware that men – I didn’t spot any women apart from the lovely PR girls who accompanied us, but they might have been hidden under bright orange protective gear and hard hats, gloves and goggles – were operating heavy machinery that, in unsafe hands, could become pretty nasty. We were chaperoned and politely advised, rightly so, where and where not to go.

We started from the middle at Newtongrange and travelled north, and then backtracked through Eskbank, Newtongrange and Gorebridge – sometimes motoring along the line which I have to say is looking extremely impressive.

There was a halt at Stow, which is getting a station, although originally not included in the deal. We had delicious soup, sandwiches, cakes, scones and tea in a quaint tearoom that used to be the popular Springbank Inn.

Then it was back on the trail of the train and a look the site of what will be the Borders terminus of the line at Tweedbank where a 220-place park-and-ride car park is being carved out. We were directed to danger signs warning of high-voltage buried cables before heading for a huge crater in what used to be Winston Road on the edge of Langlee in Galashiels.

Onwards then to Torwoodlee with more steep steps and scaffolding hovering over the Gala Water and into Bowshank Tunnel.

Back to the beginning. Before embarking on this trip we were given a pretty serious health and safety briefing at the site of the Lady Victoria Colliery before being handed all that safety gear – and rightly so. I did listen.

But nobody mentioned the dangers associated with pulling on your protective wellies.

Just out of sight of the safety officer, I ripped off a finger nail. ‘Wellies and dangers associated with’ should be added to the next safety briefing.