Squelching around in black mud in the rain on the outskirts of Cambus between the Scottish towns of Stirling and Alloa, a team of workmen is tearing up an old railway line.
Although they are removing track and sleepers, their work is in preparation for the revival of a rail route which linked Stirling and Kincardine until the early 20th century.
The 21km link will open new passenger and freight connections between Glasgow and Edinburgh (NCE 4 December 2003). Alongside wholesale replacement of track, joint venture contractor First-Nuttall must overhaul embankments and bridges, including a 100m crossing of the Forth river. A new station is to be built at Alloa. And a link road will be built around Alloa, with a bridge replacing level crossings to carry traffic over the reinstated railway.
The project has had its ups and downs since it was first promoted by Network Rail's predecessor Railtrack in 1999.
When Railtrack's financial problems distracted it from the project, Stirling-Alloa-Kincardine was picked up by a consortium of local authorities led by Clackmannanshire Council with the Strategic Rail Authority.
Consultant Jacobs Babtie acted as their representative during the planning phase, successfully piloting enabling legislation through the Scottish Parliament.
The enabling bill went through last summer, but work could not start straight away because the final budget had to be agreed with MSPs. This had increased from £37M to £47M for several reasons.
Construction has been accelerated by two years and costs have risen ahead of inflation, says Richard Hudson, a senior project manager with Tie, the company which is managing construction on behalf of Clackmannanshire.
The project team also added extra sums to account for unforeseen cost overruns. On top of that, the promoters had to finalise an asset protection agreement with Network Rail, to formalise the terms under which the track operator will take over the line.
Resolving these issues put back the start of work on site by almost 12 months. So the contractor could hit the ground running, First-Nuttall was awarded its early contractor involvement contract in June last year to iron out uncertainties associated with buildability.
Top of the list was locating underground services and planning for their relocation.
First-Nuttall worked out a more efficient way of operating Stirling station, optimising the mix of mechanical and electrical signalling and introducing twodirectional operation on the line's single track platform.
The contractor also brought in consultant Pell Frischmann to help it examine existing structures, work out the most efficient refurbishment strategy and, critically, to eliminate any over-engineering of strengthening work by using fi nite element analysis techniques.
The main civils work is expected to get under way next year, with the aim of reopening the line in 2007.