With around 1.5 million tonnes of spoil to be excavated along the Borders Railway route, it is clear why earthworks have been the main priority for the project during the relatively settled weather in spring and early summer.
The main focus for earthworks at present is in the most northerly section where an entirely new rail alignment is being landscaped. The project team expects to shift approximately 250,000 cubic metres of soil in the Shawfair area alone, with significant earth works also due to take place in Eskbank, Newtongrange, Falahill and Langlee as the project progresses during the course of the year. With so much earth to move, the project team will be utilising the railway land as much as possible to keep heavy vehicles off the road. Some of these trucks, filled with spoil, will be using the Lothianbridge Viaduct to transport the earth to other locations along the route.
Work is now evident right along the route, with top soil removed as far south as Heriot, and with bridge works underway in several locations. Site offices have been established and access roads created where necessary to allow plant machinery to access the work site.
Motorists using the Edinburgh city bypass will also now see evidence of the diversionary section of road which will be created while the project builds the railway underneath the busy stretch of road between Sherrifhall and the A1. The temporary diversion will begin operating in September, with traffic moving back to the original alignment in May 2014.
Another significant part of the preparatory works, mining remediation, has already been taking place at Shawfair, Eskbank and Newtongrange. The work involves stabilising the ground where the railway crosses old mine works. Drilling rigs have been brought onto the sites to identify the location of underground voids, while pumping rigs are used to fill any cavities.
With over 140 bridges along the route, early work to structures is also critical. Piling work, which prepares the ground for the weight of major structures, has begun at the Hardengreen roundabout viaduct and for the Gore Glen bridge over the A7. The old deck of the Bowland Railway Bridge has already been demolished, while steel workers will be examining all the old Waverley Line bridges to ensure that they can be reused by a modern railway.
With major civil engineering work still to be carried out, it won’t be until 2014 that track is finally laid on the Borders Railway route. Bowshank Tunnel is likely to see the first new rails in spring of next year, with the rest of the track being laid from late summer of 2014.
Because of the complexity of the project, and the traditional weather experienced in Midlothian and the Scottish Borders, delivery schedules are subject to change, however, we’ll keep you up to date with the last construction timescales during the course of the project.