NEWS BLOG

News from South Wales

Extract from Rail User Express  Sept. 2010.

The 17 mile Ebbw Vale line, re-opened  to passengers in 2008, has been a HUGE success….take note anyone still doubting the justification & traffic potential for reopening the Northern part of the former Waverley main line route from Edinburgh to Galashiels/Tweedbank.

The Welsh Assembly Government is increasingly supportive of rail schemes after the reopened Ebbw Valley line met its five-year target of carrying a million passengers in ONLY 18 months!

Network Rail is now progressing schemes to extend the Ebbw Valley line into Ebbw Vale town centre and also allow trains to run direct between the existing Ebbw Vale Parkway terminus and Newport, in addition to those already running to Cardiff.

– Transport Briefing 8/10

Whitrope – July 18th

Statement by Richard Crockett
Chair: Campaign for Borders Rail

Mr Chairman, Secretary of State, Ladies & Gentlemen

On behalf of your sister organisation looking to see the provisions of the 2006 Waverley Railway Act of the Scottish Parliament carried through, I should like on behalf of the Campaign for Border Rail to congratulate you warmly on all that you have achieved down here at Whitrope and to wish you every good wish for your continuing development. You are particularly to be commended in being the first along the line of the old railway actually to have permanent way on the ground. We look forward to the appearance of JCBs and operatives in high viz jackets along the valley of the Gala Water hopefully within the next 18 months. When that happens we can perhaps relax a little in the face of continued sniping in some parts of the media and the political establishment against the plans to restore rail links to the Borders.

I am constantly amazed by the short-sightedness of the anti-rail brigade. In the shorter term, a recovering economy is going to see crude oil prices creeping up again – very probably reaching $150 a barrel as early as next year. The £10 a gallon pump price for petrol is nearer than you think. (Hands up those who are happy with that prospect. I thought so).

In the longer term, at some point a future Scottish Government, irrespective of political allegiance, is going to have to address the fact that growing use of the railway network, both for the passenger and trainload freight markets, is going to be constricted by the fact of there effectively being only two double track crossings of the Border – that at Gretna and the other many miles away near Berwick. A glance at an Atlas will show that the latter in particular, is not best placed in terms of Scottish centres of population and industrial development.

Michael, as a Westminster minister, you have only an oversight role in terms of what is carried through in terms of the devolution settlement, but you are our local MP taking an active interest in the economic well being of our corner of SE Scotland. The amazing U turn on the Damascus road by your main opponent in the recent election presumably is for some dark political reason but we are confident that you along with all sensible people will continue to strive for the Borders to be properly connected to a modern UK-wide and Europe-wide transport infrastructure. Thank you

Near Stow: Water Main Re-routed

diverted main
Diverted water main

Work started on Monday May 24th to lay a new water main along the Stow to Fountainhall minor road, replacing an existing main laid in  the railway formation between bridge Nos. 67 (crossing of the Gala Water at Galabank) and 68 (Station Road overbridge), a distance of about a mile. The works are scheduled to take ten weeks and like most of the utilities diversions which may or may not have been carried out since this phase was inaugurated by Transport Minister Stewart Stevenson in mid-March, there is no activity on the actual  trackbed, so it is not at all obvious that the work is in connection with the Borders Railway.

The first image shows the work on 31st May. Excavation of the trench for the diverted water main had reached a point a few hundred yards north of Stow station, seen here from the hillside on the south side of the Gala Water valley with the railway embankment in the middle distance and the A7 road beyond that (view looking to the north east).

Diverted Main
Diverted Water Main

It is worth commenting that this is an expense which need not have fallen on the railway, as reinstatement was already on the agenda back in the late 1990s when East of Scotland Water replaced the local supply at Fountainhall with water pumped up the Gala Water valley from its Meigle facility at Galashiels. There was presumably some cost saving in utilising the railway formation rather than going along the road and in the absence of appropriate legislation to protect disused railway alignments, ESW was quite entitled to pursue whichever option suited it best. The writer was able to persuade ESW to lay the new main on one side of the formation rather than right down the middle but the single track envisaged at the time has now changed to double track in the Stow area making diversion of the main unavoidable.

Towards the end of the week commencing 24th May, excavation had only proceeded about 200 yards. The second image shows the work from the north side of the valley (from my front bedroom window actually) with the railway embankment in the middle distance. Bridge no. 68 and Stow station are just off to the left.

Transport Scotland: announcement of invitation to tender

From Transport Scotland (link to original article)

21 June 2010

Delivery of the Borders Railway moved a step closer today as Transport Scotland announced its intention to invite three organisations consisting of seven of Europe’s biggest construction and financial companies to tender for the contract.

The three organisations that have been invited to participate are:-

  • BAM (BAM UK Ltd)
  • IMCD (Sir Robert McAlpine Ltd, Iridium Concesiones de Infrastructuras SA, Carillion Construction Ltd)
  • New Borders Railway (Fluor Limited, Miller Construction (UK) Ltd, Uberior Infrastructure Investments (Lloyds Banking)

The individual companies include those responsible for some of the biggest rail projects in Europe in recent times, including the High Speed links between Amsterdam and Belgium (Zuid) and Figureas to Perpignan in France, the East Coast Mainline Upgrade, the London Underground Connect Project and Manchester Metrolink.

This contract will be another boost for the construction industry as part of Scottish Government’s current infrastructure investment programme.

John Swinney, Cabinet Secretary for Finance & Sustainable Growth said:

“I am encouraged by the strong UK and European interest received from the construction and financial industry and look forward to a competitive dialogue process which will introduce real competition to the rail market, encourage innovation and drive best value for money.

“This milestone takes us another step closer to providing timetabled passenger train services to communities along the route for the first time in over 40 years. Helping to create further opportunities for Scotland to flourish, through increasing sustainable growth in South East Scotland and provide a safer, quicker and greener mode of transport are key aims of this Government.”

A Market Day held in January, attended by over 55 UK and European companies, resulted in a strong response with Transport Scotland receiving formal expressions of interest from five organisations.

The five organisations, comprising a total of 12 construction and financial companies, submitted pre-qualification questionnaires in March 2010. A rigorous and robust evaluation was undertaken to identify the three preferred organisations to be invited to participate in Competitive Dialogue, the next stage of procurement.

During the Competitive Dialogue stage, the three organisations will now enter into dialogue with Transport Scotland over the next year to discuss their proposals for delivering the railway and associated infrastructure. During this process, the three organisations will be reduced to two, who will then be invited to submit a final tender.

It is anticipated that the award of the contract for Borders Railway will be made in winter 2011 with main construction work also beginning at this time. The project is estimated for completion with train services running in 2014.

All the necessary land has been acquired to allow construction of the railway. Accelerated funding was made available last year to allow advanced works to be completed early to reduce the level of risk in the main works contract. The Utilities work which began in March 2010 ‘triggered’ the Waverley Railway (Scotland) Act 2006 states that once work has begun the railway must be finished in its entirety from Edinburgh to Tweedbank.

Railway ‘Could Bring £500K New Spend’ To Borders Economy Every Year

NEWS RELEASE

Railway ‘Could Bring £500K New Spend’ To Borders Economy Every Year

The Campaign for Borders Rail [1] has today (Wednesday 17th) launched a new initiative to ensure that the planned Borders Railway taps into the tourist charter train market, which could bring £500,000 of new spend into the Borders economy every year. [2]

CBR is calling on Scottish Borders Council to make sure that the line’s Tweedbank terminus is designed flexibly to handle charter trains and luxury land cruises such as the Royal Scotsman [3], plus containerised freight in a nearby yard. To coincide with the initiative, CBR has also launched a new website [4] to publicise its objective of securing “the best possible Borders Railway by 2014”. [5]

In a letter [6] to Cllr David Parker, Leader of Scottish Border Council, CBR Chair Richard Crockett welcomes Transport Scotland’s “imaginative vision” for the new railway and urges SBC to take account of both rail freight and tourist charter traffic in the design and planning process for the Tweedbank terminus:

“Recognition of the environmental benefit of handling freight – particularly that dispatched from or destined for the Scottish Borders region – on the new railway is most welcome, and we also support Transport Scotland’s requirement for companies bidding to design, build, finance and maintain the line to take account of secondary revenue from tourist traffic and to make provision for tourist charter trains.

“However, to accommodate these additional rail markets on the Borders Railway, in addition to the normal timetabled passenger trains, it will be crucial to ensure that the Tweedbank terminus is designed in such a way as to allow for the capacity and facilities needed for freight and charters, as well as facilitating ultimate extension of the line south to Carlisle (as mooted by Transport Minister Stewart Stevenson in December).”

CBR says that for potential containerised freight (such as waste, road salt and timber) a simple container-handling terminal could ultimately be created to the north and east of the planned Tweedbank station car park. For freight and for passenger charter trains it would also be necessary to create a locomotive ’rounding loop’’ but this could be a modest add-on to the currently planned 2-platform terminus layout.

A further potential dimension to the new railway would be to take on board the many encouraging lessons from ‘community rail partnerships’ in England and Wales [7] which have gone beyond a simple transport agenda and are linked into wider strategies for accessibility, rural regeneration, social inclusion and sustainable tourism. Such an approach in the Borders could encourage local businesses to locate in and around Tweedbank, Gala and Stow stations (even providing rail ticket sales facilities), with the local community ‘adopting’ stations and organising local walking and cycling tours linked to rail via the nearby National Cycle Route.

ENDS

CONTACTS:

Richard Crockett, Chair CBR on 078408 15550 or 01896 750730
Lorne Anton, Vice Chair CBR on 01896 830575

NOTES FOR EDITORS:

[1] The Campaign for Borders Rail is a grassroots campaigning organisation set up in 1999 to secure the return of rail to the Scottish Borders – the only region of Britain without passenger trains. See http://www.campaignforbordersrail.org.

[2] CBR research into the charter train market in Scotland suggests that around £500,000 of new spend could be attracted into the Borders economy every year. This is based on an assumption that of over 80 charter train arrivals at Scottish destinations in 2009 (with Edinburgh as the single most popular destination), some 40 could be extended or diverted to Tweedbank.

Based on a typical train capacity of 500 passengers @ 90% loading – and using a figure of £25 expenditure per head derived from VisitBritain data – http://www.enjoyengland.com/images/visitbritain%20summary_tcm21-170908.pdf – this would equate to around £450,000 pa. To this could be added 40 overnight visits by the Royal Scotsman (around 25% of its total overnight stays pa), with an average of 30 passengers spending £50 per head.

[3] The Royal Scotsman is a luxury land cruise train operating 2, 3 and 4 night excursions around Scotland from Edinburgh during the spring to autumn season – http://www.royalscotsman.com/web/rs/the_royal_scotsman.jsp.

[4] CBR’s new website is available at http://www.campaignforbordersrail.org.

[5] Transport Scotland’s 23-month procurement process for the design, construction, financing and maintenance of the Edinburgh-Galashiels-Tweedbank line (the ‘Borders Railway’) began in December 2009, and the line is planned to be operational in 2014. See http://www.transportscotland.gov.uk/projects/borders-railway.

[6] CBR Chair Richard Crockett wrote to Cllr Parker, Leader of SBC, on 8th February. The letter is currently available at http://www.transformscotland.org.uk/GetFile.aspx?ItemId=225.

[7] For more information on community rail partnerships’ visit the website of the Association of Community Rail Partnerships – http://www.acorp.uk.com.

END OF NEWS RELEASE

Welcome

Welcome to CBR’s News Blog, which will provide a platform for the most current news and views on the progress of the Borders Railway project. Look out for the first news posting on Wednesday 17th February, which will feature our latest campaign initiative – to get the best possible Tweedbank terminus for the new railway.