My project: Steven Murdoch celebrates the opening of Borders Railway

Borders Railway, the longest domestic railway constructed in Britain in the last 100 years, was opened by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II last month.

Borders Railways reopens

The new route re-establishes passenger railway services between Edinburgh and Tweedbank in the Scottish Borders for the first time since the Waverley line closed in 1969.

This had left the Scottish Borders as the only region in the UK without a train service, and the town of Hawick, located 56 miles from Edinburgh, the furthest large town from a railway station.

After an absence of 46 years, the people of Hawick and other communities along the new Borders route are now seeing passenger train services again.

"Now that there are more links to Edinburgh, the new railway will bring more permanent residents to the area, known as a desirable place to live but previously offering limited employment opportunities."

For AECOM, the railway’s opening marked the culmination of 16 years of hard work supporting the scheme. We have been involved with the Borders project since its inception, producing the feasibility study in 1999 and developing the design included in the Waverley Railway (Scotland) Bill, which outlined plans to re-establish the railway after more than 30 years.

As the bill progressed through the Scottish Parliament, we continued to provide engineering support, helping the project achieve Royal Assent in 2006. AECOM was later appointed by UK construction and civil engineering company BAM Nuttall, to produce approval in principle and detailed design for elements of the work, and to provide support during construction and commissioning.

Being involved in the scheme has played a big part in the careers of those employees working on the Glasgow-based rail team. Over the years, more than 200 employees have worked on the project, comprising about one fifth of the overall project team at its peak.

The opening of Borders Railway marked the end of decades of campaigning for a railway in the Borders area following the 1969 closure. Along with other Scottish schemes AECOM has provided services for, such as the West Coast Main Line Upgrade and the Airdrie-Bathgate Rail Link, Borders Railway opens opportunities for a region that was previously disconnected. With all the economic, social and environmental benefits the new railway brings, trains are carrying more than just passengers — they are transporting hope across the route they traverse.

It’s easy to see how. The railway fulfils all the requirements of the Scottish Government’s strategy to ensure that transport connections are strengthened and made more reliable to maximise opportunities for employment, business, tourism and leisure. Local tourism will see a boost with visitors from Edinburgh and beyond taking advantage of the improved transportation network. Now that there are more links to Edinburgh, the new railway will bring more permanent residents to the area, known as a desirable place to live but previously offering limited employment opportunities. This influx in population should lead to an increase in local business, as companies set their sights on the growing region.

A host of infrastructure and socio-economic plans are in place to coincide with the opening of the new railway. In Midlothian, a community of four thousand homes, a school and other local amenities will open next September. New amenities including a pilot scenic steam train experience, an iconic new home for the Great Tapestry of Scotland and a modern Central Borders Business Park are also due to open along the route. These plans are expected to generate tens of millions of pounds for the Scottish economy.

The new line also benefits the environment by reducing reliance on cars in the area, leading to a decrease in carbon emissions. The new railway is expected to eliminate 700 thousand car journeys each year, and should reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 430 thousand tonnes over 60 years. The railway will also help to mitigate increasing congestion on the main roads between the Borders and Edinburgh.

As the UK’s longest domestic line to open in a century, last month’s grand opening of Borders Railway marked more than a new epoch for rail travel in Scotland – it represented a new beginning for the people of the Scottish Borders.


Steven Murdoch is Regional Director, Rail – Scotland, AECOM

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