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The Airdrie - Bathgate Rail Link Project by Ron McAuley, Director Scotland, Network Rail - Edinburgh meeting of 2 December 2008

The December meeting was addressed by Ron McAulay, Director Scotland, Network Rail who spoke on the The Airdrie - Bathgate Rail Link Project. This £300 million project is designed to re-open the railway line between Airdrie and Bathgate that was closed 50 years ago and will provide a double track electrified railway connecting Glasgow and Edinburgh.

Mr. McAulay began by outlining rail developments in Scotland in General as these provide an insight to the overall development of the Scottish Rail network. These developments include the opening of the Stirling - Alloa - Kincardine rail line which is already exceeding passenger number expectations; the Gretna - Annan double tracking project, now complete and providing additional capacity; the Glasgow Airport Rail Link project, work on which is now underway; the Lugton Loop Project to provide additional capacity enabling a 30 minute service to be provided between Glasgow and Kilmarnock that is now also underway; the new Inverness Freight Terminal that has meant that more freight can be transported by rail instead of road; the Glasgow Central resignalling project which will see control transferred to the new state of the art West of Scotland Signalling Centre; the Waverley Station upgrade; the opening of the new Larbert Training Centre; and the Edinburgh - Glasgow Improvement Plan.

The Airdrie - Bathgate Rail Link Project will reopen the closed section of railway between Drumgelloch Station near Airdrie and Bathgate. The project is the result of a study carried out which reviewed the A8 corridor and considerable benefits are expected by improving access for local communities to employment, educational and health opportunities. The re-opened railway will be a double track electrified railway throughout and will provide a fast, reliable alternative to the car. Whilst the project will not reduce the overall level of congestion compared to today, it will reduce the rate of growth of traffic congestion by providing regular train services both to the east and west of Scotland.

There will be better modal integration between pedestrians, cyclists, buses, cars and the trains and part of the project involves rebuilding the cycle path that occupies the old trackbed adjacent to the railway line There will also be park and ride facilities at stations along with bus facilities to allow bus services to feed into the railway. Current plans envisage four trains an hour in each direction with trains travelling at up to 80 mph (128 kph) and the target journey time between Glasgow and Edinburgh is 70 minutes. Trains will be 6 car units.

Mr. McAulay looked at some of the detailed works being undertaken as part of the project including the rebuilding of Newbridge junction to become a double track junction and the installation of additional platforms at Uphall and Livingston North stations. The main part of the project is the reinstatement of the track between Drumgelloch and Bathgate and the doubling of the existing track between Airdrie and Drumgelloch. The entire route will be electrified and new stations will be built at Armadale and Caldercruix.

The project required an Act of the Scottish Parliament and this involved considerable work for Network Rail as the promoter of the Bill. As promoter, Network Rail had to prepare the Bill, including detailed maps, plans and sections along with a statement of funding and expenditure. Also required were a consultation report and an Environmental Impact Statement. A Promoter's Memorandum and Promoter's statement along with explanatory notes also had to be prepared along with various schedules. A business case also had to be developed.

The Bill was then submitted to the Scottish Parliament and the various documents lodged. A 60 day objection period is then allowed and a Private Bill Committee established. The next stage was the preliminary stage when consideration was given to the general principles of the bill and this was followed by two Committee Stages. This involved various Committee hearings over several days when evidence was heard from those involved with the scheme. The final stage of the Parliamentary process was a Parliamentary Debate and motion to pass the bill.

Network Rail embarked on a substantial public consultation exercise including public meetings and exhibitions. Regular newsletters are also being produced and a website dedicated to the project was launched. The result was that only 79 objections were received of which 36 were considered at the hearings. Putting this figure of 79 objections into context, there are as many as 6000 interested parties in the land and route of the railway. As a result of the consultation exercise there were 39 changes made to the proposals.

Once Parliament had passed the Bill to become an Act, the promoter becomes the undertaker and has to implement the project. The first stage was the acquisition of the necessary land and this involved an advance purchase scheme and some compulsory purchases. By using a General Vesting Declaration it is possible to get a clean title to the land. As most of the land required for the initial advance phases of the project was already within Network Rail's ownership, it was possible to commence the construction work on this phase in July 2008 with the double tracking of the line between Edinburgh and Bathgate having been completed in October 2008.

Mr. McAulay then looked at progress with the project and outlined the major phases. Spring 2007 saw the upgrade of Bathgate branch commence which included the upgrade of Livingston North and Uphall stations and by autumn of 2008 the new double tracked Edinburgh - Bathgate line opened. The next stage is preparation for electrification of this section of line and the winter of 2008 saw work on de-vegetation on the line between Drumgelloch and Bathgate start, along with remedial works to stabilise the ground where mining has once been undertaken. At the beginning of 2009 work will commence on the new cycle way and construction work on the track between Drumgelloch and Bathgate will get underway.

The main work will be carried out throughout 2009 and 2010 with construction work on various bridges and other infrastructure between Drumgelloch and Bathgate in preparation for track laying. Work on the new Bathgate train maintenance depot will commence as will construction of the new stations at Bathgate, Armadale and Caldercruix. By the end of the year, work will commence on the new Drumgelloch Station, sited to the east of the existing station.

Track laying and installation of overhead wires will commence in early 2010, along with signalling work. The existing line between Airdrie and Drumgelloch will be closed in the spring of 2010 to allow for the necessary earthworks and bridge construction before the new double track is installed as far as Airdrie. Airdrie Station will also be upgraded and by autumn 2010 the track work will be completed and driver training underway, with the line opening by the end of 2010.

A lengthy question and answer session followed the presentation and Mr. McAulay answered a diverse range of questions on many aspects of the project and some on wider issues as well. The proceedings were brought to a close by the Chairman who presented Mr. McAulay with an engraved Scottish Region quaich.

Further information can be found on the project website at www.airdriebathgateraillink.co.uk

The Scottish Region would lik to thank Mr. Ron McAuley for his presentation and assistance with this report and Edinburgh City Council for hosting the event.

Report by John Fender.

 

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