A SPECIALIST team of police officers is to patrol construction sites along the Borders Railway project after being permanently assigned to protecting the new 30-mile long route.
An inspector, a sergeant and seven constables will make up the dedicated British Transport Police unit, aimed at preventing potentially dangerous metal thefts from the project.
The squad will also be initially responsible for limiting crime-related disruption during the construction of the £294 million rail link stretching from Edinburgh Waverley to Tweedbank in the Scottish Borders.
The route is due to open in 2015.
The new unit will be based out of offices at Newtongrange and will attend regular community briefing sessions across Midlothian and the Borders.
Officers will work with Network Rail and main contractor BAM Nuttall to prevent crime at construction sites along the route, including the seven purpose-built stations.
Metal and plant theft is a constant threat for transport authorities.
Inspector Angela McGregor, below left, the BTP officer leading the Borders Railway team, said there had only been a few reports of theft so far. But she said: “What we’re doing with the team is a lot more robust policing. There’s a very visible presence of British Transport Police officers up and down the line of route.
“When they go out and patrol, they’re engaging with the staff that are working en route and they’re engaging with the security staff.”
The unit will also educate local schoolchildren about the dangers of playing on construction sites, while dedicated unit members will patrol trains and stations once the line is open.
Network Rail spokesman Craig Bowman said of the team’s future role: “It offers reassurance that it’s going to be a safe and secure line to use. This isn’t in response to any particular crime wave.
“We’re mainly looking to prevent plant theft and metal theft. I know they have their own particular strategy for dealing with that. Unfortunately, it’s usually fairly organised gangs that do it.”
The team’s appointment comes with contractors close to finishing an alternative two-lane carriageway along a section of the City Bypass. The diversion will be used for at least eight months starting from September, allowing workers to carve a 130ft-wide tunnel beneath the vital road link needed for the rail route.
Transport Minister Keith Brown said: “This project will reconnect many communities in the Borders and Midlothian for the first time in over 40 years, and it’s important that those working, using and living near the line feel safe throughout the construction phase and once it’s up and running.
“The new BTP team will offer a reassuring presence and provide residents and those working on the railway with expert advice and support.”