Minister demands action over Borders Railway woes

CABINET minister Keith Brown has personally intervened to address the concerns of residents angry at the ­impact of the construction of the Borders Railway on their villages.

Work proceeds on the railway line. Picture: Scott Louden
Work proceeds on the railway line. Picture: Scott Louden

The infrastructure secretary has made two private visits to Heriot and Falahill in the Borders, and Tynewater in Midlothian to assess the situation.

Brown’s intervention appears to underline the Scottish Government’s concern at how the £350m scheme is affecting people living near the line.

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Problems include blasting work damaging homes, blocked roads and the flooding of a new pedestrian underpass.

Disruption to roads has angered residents. Picture: Scott Louden

Residents have also accused contractor BAM, which is building the railway for Network Rail, of being “dismissive, rude, mendacious and offhand”.

Transport Scotland, which is in charge of the project, said Brown had raised the problems with Network Rail “at the highest level” to ensure they were resolved.

Ministers will be anxious such upsets don’t take the shine off the opening of the 35-mile railway between Edinburgh and Tweedbank, south of Galashiels, in September. That is four years later than planned in 2006 when the line was approved by MSPs.

Heriot Community Council said adjoining Falahill had suffered worst, with blasting from a specially-opened quarry causing structural damage to houses.

Chairman John Williams said: “Keith Brown was slightly shocked and rather upset to find the Borders Railway was not flavour of the month here. Network Rail decides what it’s going to do and ploughs on regardless. We have found it extraordinarily difficulty to deal with.”

Williams said the experience should be a warning to those living near future rail projects. “Don’t trust anything that’s promised unless it’s written down, and be prepared to step in hard from the start.”

A Transport Scotland spokeswoman said: “Mr Brown visited Tynehead after concerns were raised about local roads used during construction. On a separate occasion, he met residents of Heriot and Falahill to hear their concerns around works to build the railway, and was made aware of historic concerns over communication from project team management.

“Following this meeting, Mr Brown raised the matter with Network Rail at the highest level to seek assurances the concerns would be addressed.”

A spokesman for Network Rail said: “We recognise that, on occasions, management of some of the activities has fallen short of our expected standard. There are also specific incidents where communication between our contractors and the affected communities could have been quicker and clearer. In those circumstances, we have apologised for our shortcomings.”