LOCAL MSP John Lamont says he fears that Hawick taxpayers will suffer a financial hit to pay for the “Galashiels railway” after it was revealed that the competition process to build the project has been ditched.
The Scottish Government announced last week that it had pulled the plug on the competition to build the £295million line and handed control to Network Rail, after two of the three bidders pulled out. The government is understood to have acted after the remaining contender sought more than the planned maximum £230milllion for the main construction contract.
But Hawick MSP John Lamont says ending competition to build the Borders Railway could mean spiralling costs which is already an issue for local constituents.
“The cost of this railway is one of the biggest complaints I get from folk who come to see me at my surgeries or at my office on the High Street. People in Hawick are very concerned that they may have to pay for delays in the project,” he said.
And highlighting what he describes as the tram “fiasco” in Edinburgh, Mr Lamont predicts that the U-turn on the railway could well be a catastrophe for another vital transport scheme.
He told us: “Coupled with the delays in the start of building work, there is real concern that this project will go the same way as Edinburgh’s tram project; over schedule and over budget. This must not be allowed to happen.”
He added: “Hawick taxpayers must not be left to pick up the tab for a Galashiels railway.”
But Scottish Borders Council leader David Parker is delighted that the project will now be delivered by Network Rail.
He said: “This is fantastic news that will ensure the project’s successful delivery and it will also mean that the completed railway will be part of the Scottish Rail Network from day one.”
He added: “It also ends the uncertainty caused by the bidders withdrawing from the previous procurement process and there can be no doubt that the announcement is very good news for the Borders.”
Transport minister Keith Brown says despite the change of plan, the 30-mile line between Edinburgh and Tweedbank will still be completed by December 2014 and on budget.
Although agreeing to take over the project, Network Rail has not ruled out further delays and cost increases.
A spokesperson said: “We will now review the progress the project has made so far and put in place a plan for its delivery.”