CONTRACTORS working to shore up passageways beneath a £200 million development that will plug a long-standing gap site have released exclusive images of their labours underground.
The tunnels at Haymarket Station are being reinforced through the night by a 40-strong team of specialists to make sure they can support a major new complex of offices, cafes, bars and restaurants, 165 serviced apartments and a 320-space underground car park.
The development is one of Edinburgh’s biggest commercial projects of the last decade and expected to create around 3500 jobs.
The subterranean reinforcement job – that sees metal bars buttressed to underground stonework – can only begin when sleeper trains no longer use the tunnels at around midnight and must stop before dawn to ensure early-morning commuters face zero disruption.
Completion of the first building phase is set for 2016.
Tenants already signed up include Tesco, Pret A Manger and Prezzo, as well as apartment-hotel operator Staycity. The four-acre plot has lain derelict for decades and construction efforts have struggled to get off the ground.
David Westwater, development director at Interserve – a joint partner with Tiger Developments, said the tunnel work was the “main challenge” before construction above ground could begin.
He said: “It will clearly be next year before we can do that, but then people will soon start to see the development taking shape. After such a long time as a gap site, we’re very excited about what The Haymarket has to offer and how it will help to create a real gateway at Edinburgh’s west end.”
Project manager Angus MacGregor said there had been “many constraints” working on underground railway tunnels but “good progress” had been made.
“We are very well experienced in complex rail projects but every situation is unique so we’ve had to develop a very specific approach for this work based on the skills and knowledge of our team,” he said.
Engineers can only work in the north tunnel from midnight until 5am, four nights per week and in the south tunnel from 1am to 9.30am one night a week.
Gary Walker, of Network Rail asset protection, said: “Clearly our priority is to ensure that the works are carried out safely and with no disruption to rail passengers on this extremely busy section of the network.
“We have worked closely with Edinburgh Haymarket Developments and BAM throughout the design process over the last 12 months and it is pleasing to see work being carried out as planned.”
The strengthening works will allow contractors to begin building the foundations for the development. This includes grouting between the tunnel lining and the surrounding ground, and drilling and inserting metal bars within the brick lining.