Comment: Borders railway project far from smooth

A workman on the new track. Picture: Scott Louden
A workman on the new track. Picture: Scott Louden
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CONSTRUCTION of the Borders line may be complete on time and on budget, but the overall project has finished years late and cost far more than forecast, as The Scotsman and Scotland on Sunday have revealed in a series of exclusives.

Ministers were forced to scrap plans for the private sector to finance, build and maintain the route after two of the three shortlisted groups pulled out in 2010 and 2011.

The return to traditional methods under Network Rail put back the original 2011 opening date even further.

The following year, we revealed the railway would cost £350 million compared with a previous estimate of up to £295m, which itself had increased several times.

Since then, our newspapers have highlighted a catalogue of shortcomings, such as the length of double track being scaled back to cover less than one third of the 30-mile line. That will mean the cancellation of up to six ScotRail services a day to make way for steam trains running three times a week from next Thursday.

In addition, about eight new bridges have built over the line and these have space for only a single track, so they would have to re-modelled at significant cost to accommodate a second line in the future.

The papers also highlighted that ScotRail’s least reliable diesel trains will serve the route, with only one being refurbished in time for the opening.

And they revealed that most journeys between Edinburgh and Tweedbank will take longer than the promised 55 minutes, with some taking 11 minutes longer, and trip speeds averaging just 37mph.