THE first rails have been laid on the Borders Railway, which is now just over a year away from re-opening after a gap of 46 years.
Network Rail hailed the laying of track in Bowshank tunnel, near Galashiels, as a “major construction milestone” in the £350 million project.
It involved a 25-strong team laying concrete on the northbound section of the track through the 200-metre long tunnel.
The southbound track will be completed within weeks.
Concrete - or “slab” - track is being used in the tunnel rather than the traditional ballast (stones) to support the rails because of its limited headroom.
This will leave space so overhead wires can be installed in the future so electric trains could run on the 35-mile line between Edinburgh and Tweedbank, south of Galashiels.
A special rail installation machine will be used this autumn to lay track over the rest of the 30 miles of new line south from where the route currently ends at Newcraighall, on Edinburgh’s south eastern edge.
The line is due to be complete in June next year, with passenger trains starting in September following driver training.
Network Rail project director Hugh Wark said: “Laying the slab track is an essential part of the preparation works ahead of the track laying taking place in the autumn.
“With just over a year to go until the first trains start running, we are looking forward to marking many more exciting milestones over the coming weeks and months as we move closer towards completion of the new line.”
The route - which continued to Carlisle - closed in 1969 in one of the most notorious of the Beeching cuts, to slim down the network to reduce its losses.