Track will start being laid on the Borders Line from the end of October, with systems such as wiring installed from the end of this month.
Network Rail spokesman Craig Bowman told RAIL that contractor BAM Nuttall already has 10,000 sleepers on site, with ballast also ready for delivery.
Ahead of the opening of the Edinburgh-Tweedbank route in September 2015, he said that the main civil engineering barriers had been crossed. There is local concern about the number of lorries that will be using the region’s roads to deliver materials, but Bowman explained that the plan is eventually to deliver materials by rail.
Construction of the line finishes in June 2015. When open it will be operated by diesel multiple units (probably Class 158s), running a 55-minute service with a half-hourly frequency. It will not be electrified, but there is provision to install OLE if required.
Bowman said that the structure on the line, largely, was not suitable for double track. He said that the case for doubling the line from new was “extremely substantive”, and suggested that it would not have been built if not in its current form. In total, there will be six miles of double track on the Borders route.
“It will mainly be single track with three passing loops,” he said. “The main capacity opportunity is to increase trains from three-car to six-car formations.”
One of the biggest challenges faced by the engineering team was mining on the north of the route. Some of the entrances to mine shafts dated from the 16th century, and hadn’t been charted. “In those days they chopped a tree down to bung it up,” said Bowman.
However, the biggest challenge, he said, was crossing the Edinburgh City Bypass, which was completed over the weekend of June 7/8.
And Bowman said that there was nothing to prevent extending the route beyond Tweedbank.
“Engineering wise, it is doable,” he said. “It would not be beyond this engineering team, but there needs to be a business case.”
He also spoke about possible capacity constraints if the line is successful. He said: “There is potential to double around Newtongrange.”
Construction of the new £5.2 million transport interchange at Galashiels has started. It will connect the new Borders Railway with a new bus station and pedestrian access to the town centre.