TRANSPORT Scotland maintain that the much talked about Borders Railway will be open on time and on budget, despite reports earlier this week to the contrary.
Stories in several national newspapers claimed that the Edinburgh-Tweedbank link would be delayed by 12 months after two out of the three bidders dropped out and the remaining sole bidder on the project, the Dutch firm BAM, sought more than the expected £230 million to cover the risks associated with the project.
This would see costs rise above the £295m maximum but Transport Scotland said that they expected the contract for the 35 mile stretch of railway to be awarded early in the new year with construction due to start in the spring.
The target date for opening the new railway is 2014 and a Transport Scotland spokesperson commented: “The preferred bidder stage is early next year which triggers the start of preparatory work on the ground ahead of full construction,
“In spite of the difficulties we have encountered following the withdrawal of two bidders, we are confident we will deliver this project efficiently and successfully for the people of the Scottish Borders.”
There have been persistent concerns about costs and potential delays throughout the project’s history.
And Liberal Democrat MSP Jim Hume said that people in the Borders were becoming “increasingly frustrated” by changes in timescale deadlines.
He commented: “I was told in a meeting last week with the Transport Minister that the project would be delivered on time but that it would be ‘very tight’.
“There are now real doubts as to whether the line will be operational in 2014 and the Government has tough questions to answer.
“This line is vital for the economic development of Borders and Midlothian communities.
“It is time the Government stopped dithering and begin to deliver a Borders Rail link that is on time and on budget.”
Berwickshire MSP John Lamont voiced similar concerns, adding: “The chaos surrounding the Edinburgh Trams project highlights the dangers of a project like this if timetables and costs are allowed to get out of control.
“In the current economic climate, we cannot allow a situation to arise where Borders taxpayers are asked to pay more for this project than has already been committed.”