Airdrie-Bathgate railway moves a step closer

05/03/2007

A Scottish Parliament committee has secured a series of improvements to the Airdrie-Bathgate railway proposals which will minimise noise disruption and improve community mediation along the route.

A report by the Airdrie-Bathgate Railway and Linked Improvements Bill Committee, published today, sets out the conclusions to outstanding objections and moves the bill a step closer to completing its parliamentary passage. The report recommends:

  • long-term improvements to bus services to ensure they are fully integrated with the railway,

  • the appointment of a dedicated, independent environmental clerk of works to monitor construction impacts on the environment,

  • the creation of a community forum where matters relating to construction can be discussed,

  • a reduction in the hours that construction work can take place, and

  • a commitment that Network Rail will engage individually with affected persons along the route to discuss ways of reducing impact through remedies such as planting trees to minimise noise and screen the railway.

Committee Convener, Phil Gallie MSP, said:

"We have made a number of real improvements to the bill which will provide people living along the railway corridor with safeguards from the impact of both the construction and the operation of the railway route.

"The committee has been particularly aware of the impact the railway can have on people’s day to day lives. We have therefore set daily working times during the railway’s construction phase to meet public concerns about the impact of noise but have balanced that with the need not to cause delay to the promoter’s overall construction timetable.”

Whilst making improvements to the bill, the report does, however, go on to criticise Network Rail’s ability, as promoter, to take the project forward in a “spirit of partnership, consensus and openness with the local communities”.

The report reminds Network Rail that the reinstatement of the railway was “not presented simply as an engineering project”. It involves wider responsibilities of “improving the economic and social well being of the North Lanarkshire and West Lothian areas and the people who live there”. And that it “cannot promote this bill and simply construct the railway leaving the other elements that deliver the scheme’s objectives to others”.

On the wider merits of the scheme, Committee Deputy Convener, Alasdair Morgan MSP, said:

"We remain supportive of this £342 million public transport project and recognise the economic and social benefits it can bring to West Lothian and North Lanarkshire.

"We have endeavoured to clarify how these benefits would be captured when the railway commences operations in 2011. For example, we recommend improvements to local bus provision, providing services that integrate local communities with rail services.

"We have also ascertained the levels of new housing, a valuable source of passengers, which are being proposed in the run up to 2011. We have facilitated improvements to the alignment of the £7.2 million cycle and footpath and also improved pedestrian access into stations along the route.”

The Airdrie-Bathgate Railway and Linked Improvements Bill is expected to be debated in parliament at the end of this month.

Background

The former 14 mile stretch of railway between Airdrie and Bathgate was reduced to single track in 1979 and, in 1982, the line between Clarkston (near Drumgelloch) and Bathgate was closed to all traffic. The track itself was then lifted and replace with a surfaced cycle track.

The Airdrie-Bathgate Railway and Linked Improvements Bill is being promoted by Network Rail. It aims to re-open the rail link between Airdrie and Bathgate with a double track electrified railway following the original railway line. Improvements are planned to existing railway lines between the west of Glasgow and Edinburgh via Airdie and Bathgate. New stations will be built at Caldercruix and Armadale and at relocated stations at Drumgelloch and Bathgate. A cycle path along the former railway solum will be relocated.

The bill is currently at Consideration Stage. Consideration Stage involves the consideration of, and decisions on, objections lodged to the bill. It is split into two phases. At phase one, the committee must arbitrate between the interests of the promoter and each outstanding objector and then report on each. Phase two involves the committee considering all admissible amendments lodged to the bill. Once this Stage is completed, the bill proceeds to Final Stage. This is where the Parliament will make the final decision on whether to pass or reject the bill.

The bill was introduced into the Parliament on 30 May 2006 . A total of 79 admissible objections to the bill were lodged. The Consideration Stage report sets out the committee’s consideration of the remaining 48 objections.

While the construction of a railway between Airdrie and Bathgate is the main purpose of the bill, it also includes improvements to existing facilities. These are:

  • Works at Airdrie station.

  • Renewal of one bridge between Airdrie and Drumgelloch.

  • Provision of a light maintenance depot for rolling stock at Bathgate.

  • Provision of a site to replace the car storage yard at Boghall.

  • Renewal of nine bridges between Bathgate and Edinburgh.

  • Minor works to a further 12 bridges between Bathgate and Edinburgh.

  • Demolition of five bridges between Bathgate and Edinburgh.

  • Provision of a new car park and access road to serve Uphall Station.

  • Provision of a new footbridge over the M8 to link the car park and Uphall Station.

Through the Bill, the promoter is seeking to :

  • improve direct access to labour markets in Glasgow, Edinburgh, and West Lothian for people living in the Airdrie to Uphall corridor.

  • stimulate economic growth in the area by improving the connectivity.

  • assist in the delivery of social inclusion to local communities by providing enhanced public transport opportunities to those without access to private cars.

  • contribute towards increasing the number of people using public transport in Central Scotland and provide these communities with improved access into the national rail network.

  • offer a public transport alternative to the M8 thus helping to reduce the rise in road congestion and subsequent environmental impacts.

construct a rail link that will allow for existing services on the Glasgow North electrics to operate as through services to Edinburgh providing an alternative to the Edinburgh - Glasgow main line service, thus assisting in reducing congestion at peak times.

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