WORKERS will use an historic viaduct left untouched for more than four decades to transport thousands of tonnes of earth needed to build the Borders Railway project.
Network Rail said eight-wheeler lorries would be travelling across the top of the Newbattle Viaduct in Midlothian from as early as tomorrow – to avoid causing traffic congestion in the area. The traffic-free route will be used to move as much as 200,000 cubic metres of soil from the heart of Newtongrange to build a new bridge near Hardengreen roundabout. Trucks will use the crossing for about two months while excavation works are carried out in what has been applauded as a common-sense step by contractors.
The £300 million Borders Rail link is due to open in summer 2015 and will extend across 35 miles from Edinburgh Waverley to Tweedbank.
The viaduct, which was built in 1847 and is otherwise known as Lothian Bridge, has not been used since the transport of coal along the old Waverley route ended in 1972.
Network Rail spokesman Craig Bowman said the viaduct was being put back into use to avoid large lorries building up on the busy A7 linking the Scottish Borders to the Edinburgh City Bypass. “They’re using the viaduct instead of going on the roads. It’s quite an intelligent use of the equipment we’ve got and trying to reduce the impact on the roads as well,” he said. “We’ll be putting trucks up there. Big eight-wheeler trucks will be going back and forth across the viaduct.
“The viaduct’s been inspected. There’s a bit of work to be done to the parapets, also the stonework at the side of the bridge and the hand rails there, but structurally it’s absolutely sound.”
The 22-arch structure, once described by Queen Victoria as “very fine”, spans the River Esk and a ravine. Newtongrange Community Council secretary Ron Campbell applauded Network Rail for doing their utmost to keep heavy vehicles off local roads.
He said: “The viaduct used to take 200-tonne coal trains. It was built for the old railway. It’s a superb structure.
“We’ve been given lots of information about this project. We’ve been well briefed by Network Rail and [main contractor] BAM.” Works to create a road diversion to allow a 130ft-wide tunnel to be carved under the city bypass started earlier this week.
The alternative two-lane carriageway is due to open in September for at least eight months, with a 40mph speed limit to be enforced.
Midlothian Council leader Bob Constable said: “We appreciate any efforts to minimise disruption during the building of the Borders Railway project.”