Borders Railway’s bypass plan on track, say bosses

The tunnelling work ongoing underneath the City Bypass at Sheriffhall. Picture: Robert Ormerod
The tunnelling work ongoing underneath the City Bypass at Sheriffhall. Picture: Robert Ormerod
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RAIL bosses aim to have traffic back on the original route of the City Bypass by early May as they complete the most ambitious section of the Borders Railway project.

Up to 50,000 motorists a day have been diverted along a like-for-like dual carriageway since September last year while ­engineers tunnel beneath the original bypass.

Beginning in April, the team behind the £300 million rail reopening will now transfer the A720 City Bypass from its temporary alignment back to its original position over the newly ­constructed railway tunnel – at a site just 200m east of Sheriffhall Roundabout.

The temporary carriageway will then be removed to make way for the railway.

A Network Rail spokesman said: “We have made progress with the project and it is on time and on schedule. Our ­target now is to realign the bypass by late April/early May.

“The main tunnel beneath the bypass has been completed and we are currently strengthening the sidewalls.

“We are reasonably confident in realigning the bypass, it’s the same project we ­completed without a hitch last September, but in reverse.”

The major engineering project has seen a 130ft-wide tunnel excavated beneath the vital road link. This excavation will allow a double track ­section of rail to pass under the A720.

In January, rail chiefs announced the closure of a ­section of the nearby A6106 – the main road into Millerhill, on the city’s outskirts – for six months.

The closure is to allow the road to be relaid so it bends around the 35-mile line ­linking Edinburgh Waverley to the Borders. As a result delays have been encountered by motorists in the area – the A6106 is expected to reopen this ­summer.

Hugh Wark, project director at Network Rail, said: “The alignment of the railway north of the City Bypass is entirely new, meaning that there are some significant obstacles to ­overcome, including this stretch of the A6106.

“In the meantime, we have built a new road connecting the A7 [Old Dalkeith Road] to the new roundabout. This alternative route should help minimise disruption but we’d encourage residents and road users to drive with caution until they are familiar with the diversion.”

Midlothian councillor Derek Rosie, cabinet member with responsibility for roads, said: “We’ve been working with the Borders Railway team and we’re confident all is being done to keep disruption to a minimum while this important work is ongoing.”

Earlier this year the project saw the closure of the Hardengreen roundabout on the busy A7 in Midlothian – a key route into the Capital used by ­thousands of commuters every day – to allow engineers to crane the beams of a vast bridge over the roundabout, a piece of work hailed as “a real piece of history in the making”.