On the day the Scottish Government set out actions being taken to accelerate recovery and transform the long term performance of Scotland’s economy, the most significant milestone yet in the development of the Borders Railway was reached with the official start of works.
The start of those works on the railway – committed to by the Scottish Government to begin within the lifetime of the current Parliament - is one of many programmes of investment in Scotland’s transport infrastructure helping to support Scotland’s economy and boost recovery. The works also trigger the Act to build the railway, which states that once work has begun the Scottish Government must finish it in its entirety from Edinburgh to Tweedbank.
Marking the commencement of ancillary works in Galashiels, Transport Minister, Stewart Stevenson, said:
“The Scottish Government has made clear its commitment to the Borders Railway as a key part of our programme of investment - we are now delivering on that commitment.
“Today the Scottish government sets out the actions being taken across the public sector to position Scotland’s economy for recovery and boost the long term performance of our economy. Part of that strategy is delivering major transport programmes like the Borders Railway.
“It is therefore fitting that work now starts on a project which will provide a fast, efficient rail link connecting communities from the Scottish Borders to Midlothian and Edinburgh. When finished, the railway will act as a catalyst for economic growth right across southern Scotland, supporting hundreds of jobs during its construction. It will also increase business development and housing opportunities across the region, whilst helping promote inward investment.
“Today the Scottish Government has made clear its commitment to a strong economic recovery. Equally clear is the Government’s commitment to delivering this major railway investment programme for people throughout Midlothian and the Scottish Borders which will not only support Scotland’s long term economic recovery, but open up those regions to rail passengers again for the first time in over 40 years.”
In December last year, the process of identifying the contractor who will design, build, finance and maintain the Borders Railway began, with initial submissions from interested parties due back this month. The Transport Scotland team will then shortlist a number of companies who will be invited to participate in the tender competition, thereafter appointing a contractor to start the main construction contract in 2011, with completion in 2014. In the meantime, a package of enabling work that was started today will continue, and includes the movement or protection of a number of utilities along the line, as well as additional environmental work.
The Waverley Railway (Scotland) Act 2006, which gives authority to build the railway, states that once work has begun the Scottish Government is committed to “construct the whole of the railway”, meaning that once started, the railway line must be finished in its entirety from Edinburgh to Tweedbank.
Joining the Minister as he started the work programme in Galashiels was Mrs Madge Elliot, a veteran campaigner for the return of the Borders Railway who was there when the last train ran in 1969. That last locomotive was piped out of the Borders by a lone piper, and there was a Pipe Major on hand today too, to acknowledge links with the past as the Minister and his guests looked towards the future of the Borders Railway.
David Parker, Leader of Scottish Borders Council, was also present. He said: "I am absolutely delighted with the progress being made to deliver the Borders railway. Today's announcement is the most significant step forward and everyone can now look forward with confidence to the railway's delivery. The triggering of the Bill is a significant commitment by the Scottish Government to this project and there can be no doubt that today represents the beginning of the actual physical delivery of the line. Many Borderers will be delighted with what has taken place today and our long wait for rail services is coming to an end."
A number of preparatory works - essential to the delivery of the railway, but not covered by the authority of the Act - have already been undertaken in 2009 and are continuing throughout 2010 and 2011, following Scottish Ministers’ decision to accelerate funding at the end of 2008. These are vital works that will ensure the main contract is focused on building the railway itself, along with seven new stations. Preparatory work includes scour repair and protection works on a number of bridges along the Gala Water, and diverting traffic away from an unsafe bridge at Cowbraehill, while the bridge was demolished, to be rebuilt as part of the main construction programme.
• Estimated value of the Design and Build elements of the Railway Works: £200m-£230m at 2013 prices. Exact figures will be determined as part of the tendering phase. This does not include other costs associated with the project such as land purchase and advance Ancillary Works which commenced today.
• In 2008 the Minister for Transport, Infrastructure and Climate Change advised the estimated overall project cost up to the completion of the construction phase to be in the range £235-295 million at 2012 price levels.
• The railway line will be designed, built and financed and maintained (DBFM) by a newly created, Transport Scotland-backed non-profit company, using a DBFM contract and Non-Profit Distributing (NPD) procurement model.
• The railway will provide a fast and efficient rail link connecting communities in the Scottish Borders and Midlothian to Edinburgh, who currently have no direct access to a railway line.
• The scheme will reduce the amount of carbon dioxide emissions by 435,000 tonnes (over a 60 year period), and reduce reliance on the car, in turn helping to reduce congestion.
• The scheme is expected to reduce the number of road accidents on the A7 and A68 by approximately 10 accidents every year.
• Approximately 200 – 400 jobs will be created during the period of construction.