Borders Rail line ‘strips residents of privacy’

Bernadette Willison by the railway works. Picture: Neil Hanna
Bernadette Willison by the railway works. Picture: Neil Hanna
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Angry residents living near the Borders Railway line have accused its developers of stripping them of privacy in their own homes.

Houses at Hardengreen Lane in the Midlothian village of Eskbank are just five metres from the new rail line, and residents insist noise and disruption has stopped them going out into their gardens.

They claim Network Rail promised an embankment, protective trees, shrubbery and a high fence, but a spokesman for the firm said no guarantees were given and that engineering reasons had prevented some of the measures being put in place.

Several people said they would not have bought their houses if they knew locomotives would loom over their gardens, dwarfing a fence provided by contractors.

Bernadette Willison, 45, said: “They’ve said they would put up a noise barrier. What they’ve come back with is a fence about six feet high.

“I am absolutely staggered at how high above this fence the trains are. It’s unbelievable. I wish they had a bit more consideration for the people that live here.”

John Walker, 54, said: “I can sit in the living room and I can see the guys walking along, and I can hear them, so that’s not going to stop a train’s noise. A train’s wheels are about half the height of a man’s body, and I can see their hips, so by the time somebody’s sat in a train, they’re going to be looking into my daughter’s room. They said there was going to be a high fence, but it’s only six inches higher than my own.”

Another resident, who asked not to be named, said: “Network Rail said they were going to take the majority of our considerations on board in terms of lighting, security and vegetation. A letter has come out a few weeks later, and none of our considerations have been taken into account.

“We’re so angry now that it is laughable. We were told we would see the top of the train only, but you can practically see the bottom of the train as it’s going past. We absolutely accept that the railway is there. All we’ve ever asked for is some privacy around it.”

The £294 million rail line, which will link Edinburgh and the Borders for the first time in almost 60 years, is set to see its first services in September 2015.

A spokesman for Network Rail said: “The project has made every effort to take on board the feedback received from residents along the Borders Railway route and, where possible, has incorporated that feedback into designs.

“At Hardengreen, noise modelling was carried out and noise barriers have been installed. The majority of train noise comes from the lower parts of the train and the 1.8m noise barriers are designed to mitigate against noise from the trains rather than to obscure the railway from view.

“Requests from residents for tree planting cannot be considered as there is insufficient space available within the railway-owned boundary to plant trees at this location.

“While we adapt our designs and approach to accommodate the community where possible, we are not always able to respond positively to every request.”