Network Rail will begin construction of the Borders Railway in early 2013 following the completion of a project transfer agreement between Network Rail and the Scottish Government. The agreement, which was signed in Newtongrange Mining Museum on Tuesday 6 November, follows eleven months of detailed planning and negotiations between the two organisations. It commits Network Rail to commissioning the new 30 mile railway and seven new stations by summer 2015. The capital construction cost of the line will total £294m at 2012 prices. With Network Rail’s involvement, the total 30 year construction and maintenance cost of the scheme is now £60m less than initial estimates.
While it remains the clear target to have the railway line in place by the end of 2014, a contractual completion date of summer 2015 is today being agreed by Transport Scotland and Network Rail, that is challenging but realistic and will deliver a much needed rail link with the city of Edinburgh for the first time in more than 40 years.
In finalising the scheme, elements have been incorporated to accommodate important economic developments and the ability to handle tourist trains at Tweedbank. The local community will be able to see track capable of carrying engineering trains laid end to end before the end of 2014 , while passengers services will follow in 2015.
Transport Minister Keith Brown said: “The official handover of the Borders project to Network Rail marks a milestone in our efforts to provide a fast and efficient rail link that will significantly contribute to area’s economy.
“The Borders Railway will bring inward investment for the local community plus approximately £33 million of benefits for the wider Scottish economy. It will support 400 jobs during the construction phase and act as a catalyst for increased business development and housing opportunities within easy commuting distance of Edinburgh.
“By increasing accessibility to jobs, education and business opportunities, we can generate sustainable economic growth for the people of Midlothian, Borders and wider Scotland while offering an attractive public transport alternative to the car. This will cut car journeys on the region’s roads by approximately 60,000 peak trips per year, significantly reducing carbon emissions and potentially reducing accidents on the A7 and A68.
“I am also pleased to confirm that we have ensured the railway infrastructure can accommodate tourist trains at Tweedbank station, increasing potential for real growth in this area.
“By funding this project via Network Rail, we are able to make savings of approximately £60 million against the previous estimate for an NPD delivery model. This means, overall, the whole life costs of building maintaining and operating the line over 30 years can be delivered under budget.
“It remains a very clear target for the Scottish Government to have the railway line in place by the end of 2014 and we will be working closely with Network Rail to achieve this . I have asked for a further review of the programme in nine months from now once construction is well underway and we have had an opportunity to make a further assessment of the risks.”
Following the market failure of the NPD procurement last summer the 2014 target was maintained to keep the focus on delivering this vital project as quickly as possible and there has been a significant commitment to advance works over the past 12 months to ensure rapid progress of the scheme.
David Simpson, Route Managing Director, Network Rail Scotland, commented: “We’re delighted now to have reached an agreement on delivery of a project which will finally bring Midlothian and the central Scottish Borders back into the railway network.
“This agreement sets out an achievable delivery schedule and allows us to have trains running along the route in summer 2015. Network Rail has already been involved extensively with advance works and we have begun actively engaging with communities along the route to prepare communities for the impact of this major engineering challenge. We’re proud to be delivering this prestigious project and look forward to delivering what will be a hugely important new asset for Midlothian and the Scottish Borders.”
Midlothian Council Leader Bob Constable said the transfer to Network Rail heralded a new milestone in the project. He said: “With the transfer to Network Rail and major work starting in January, local people in Midlothian will soon be able to get a real sense of the impact this project will have on their lives. Four new stations at Shawfair, Eskbank, Newtongrange and Gorebridge will take Midlothian residents direct to Edinburgh Waverley. The main line rail service will encourage economic growth and inward investment, increase tourism and open up new opportunities for leisure and education. And of course, the rail service will offer a real alternative to the car. Personally, I can’t wait to buy my first ticket to use the new line.”
Councillor David Parker, Leader of Scottish Borders Council, said: “It is tremendous news for the Scottish Borders that Network Rail have been given the green light to construct the Borders Railway and I am pleased that after a 45 year gap trains will be arriving in the Borders in 2015. Today’s announcement has been long anticipated in the Borders and the economic benefit that the railway will bring to our region will be significant. I would like to put on record my thanks to the Scottish Government, Transport Scotland and Network Rail for the tremendous work that has been done recently to secure the project’s construction and confirm its delivery.”
The Borders Railway will re-establish passenger railway services for the first time in over 40 years from Edinburgh through Midlothian to Tweedbank in the Scottish Borders.
The new line will include 30 miles of new passenger railway with three existing stations and seven new ones. From north to south, new stations will be built in Shawfair, Eskbank, Newtongrange, Gorebridge, Stow, Galashiels and Tweedbank.
Passengers will be able to travel direct from Tweedbank to Edinburgh Waverley in less than an hour at peak times. It will offer a fast and efficient alternative to the congested road network.
The railway is expected deliver major economic and social development opportunities. It will connect people to jobs, housing, leisure opportunities and other facilities.
The project is a key part of the Scottish Government’s wider programme of investment in transport infrastructure, working towards the sustainable economic growth of Scotland.
The transfer agreement also marks the launch of a new project website (www.bordersrailway.co.uk). Project partners led by Network Rail will also be embarking on a series of local drop-in events during November and December to provide more information about the project and construction schedule. Details will be made available online and publicised locally.