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Scottish transport: On the fast track

Work on one of Scotland’s biggest engineering projects began this summer, with the £312M new rail link between Airdrie and Bathgate progressing quickly. Mark Hansford reports.

While there may have been grim news for one Scottish rail project last week, when Transport Scotland was forced to pull the plug on the Glasgow Airport Rail Link, it’s full steam ahead the Airdrie-Bathgate project.

Here, Network Rail is reopening the Airdrie-Bathgate passenger rail link after 50 years of closure. The £312M project also involves upgrading the existing lines between Bathgate and Edinburgh and between Airdrie and Drumgelloch. Once completed, the line will be double-tracked and electrified from Edinburgh to Glasgow, and passengers will be able to travel continuously through to Helensburgh.

The project is a major investment in Scotland’s public transport network and is a key priority for Transport Scotland. It is also welcome good news for the Scottish construction industry.

Over the past year the majority of works to the east end of the line have been completed − including station upgrades and double tracking of the existing Edinburgh-Bathgate branch line − and works are now moving westwards to where the real challenges lie.

The real challenges

Construction activity is now concentrating on the ‘missing link’ between Drumgelloch and Bathgate − with the creation of new stations at Armadale, Caldercruix and Blackridge.

Over 500,000t of earth will need to be excavated, 28 bridges will need to be replaced and 11 brand new ones built.

Carillion has been awarded an £80M contract to build the stations at Caldercruix, Armadale and Drumgelloch as well as a range of other new structures and earthworks. The company will also carry out ground treatment and filling operations.

BAM Nuttall will build the new station at Bathgate, as well as a new platform at Airdrie and a range of bridge works and earthworks in a £14M deal. C Spencer has been awarded a £6M contract to build a new light maintenance depot in Bathgate.

All three are now pushing ahead with over 700 staff putting in an impressive 186,000 man hours in the last month alone.

“I recently surveyed the line of route by helicopter and it’s clear that the project is starting to shape the local landscape.”

Hugh Wark, Network Rail

“I recently surveyed the line of route by helicopter and it’s clear that the project is starting to shape the local landscape,” says Network Rail senior project manager Hugh Wark. “It is really encouraging to see the results of our ongoing hard work as the railway starts to emerge.

“Members of the project team have also been out in the local communities that will benefit from the rail link. It’s great to meet so many people looking forward to the re-opening.”

The figures speak for themselves: over 40,000t of new stone was transported to the site during one week in August. The stone is required for strengthening the embankments of the track for the 24km new section of railway between Drumgelloch and Bathgate.

The project team has installed 603 concrete foundations, 417 piled foundations, 650 masts and 4km of overhead wire as part of the electrification process. Construction work is under way at 15 bridges along the new section of line, foundations for the new Bathgate Station have been laid and station features are beginning to take shape.

C Spencer’s work at Bathgate Light Maintenance Depot is also progressing well, with the platform track installed and all cross-track overhead line electrification gantries erected.

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