Borders Railway


Duration:2 years


Country: Scotland, UK

What did this project achieve?

Reconnect the Scottish Borders region to the national rail network

The Borders railway was the longest new domestic rail route to be built in the UK for over a century. It runs south from Edinburgh to the town of Galashiels and on to the village of Tweedbank in the Scottish Borders.

The new rail link follows the northern part of what was the Waverley line – named after a historical novel by Sir Walter Scott.

The Waverley line was controversially closed in 1969 as part of cuts to the rail network drawn up by British Rail chairman Dr Richard Beeching. Its closure left the Borders region without any direct connection to the national rail network.

A campaign to revive the line built up in the 1990s. The Scottish government decided to reopen the railway in 2006. Construction finally started in April 2013.

Rebuilding the 31 mile single-track route saw workers build 7 new stations and 42 new bridges over 2 years.

Opened by the Queen in September 2015, it was used by nearly 126,000 passengers in the first month.

The railway was named Scottish infrastructure project of 2016 by the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors.

Difference the railway line has made

The Borders link has triggered a housing boom along the route with new homes built and existing ones going up in price. Some experts predict another 4,000 houses will be built in the next 25 years.

The line has helped the local tourist industry with local attractions – including Sir Walter Scott's former home Abbotsford House – seeing more visitors. Employment in tourism has gone up 8% since 2015.

2.6 million people have used the railway since it opened. An estimated 40,000 car journeys have been saved by the new link.

How the work was done

Engineers working on the 31 mile line built 42 new bridges. They also refurbished 95 existing bridges and 2 tunnels.

The greatest challenge during construction came at the point the track met the Edinburgh city bypass. Engineers had to dig a tunnel under the A720 while the road was temporarily diverted.

Another major challenge meant project workers had to dig out an infilled cutting on the outskirts of Galashiels. They also had to reconstruct a nearby bridge to allow the route to pass under power lines.

The 2 year scheme saw 1,000 rails laid across 100,000 sleepers. Workers dug out and removed 1.5m tonnes of earth during the project.

Contractors Network Rail used a tracklaying machine to lay rails for the project. The machine reached the end of the line at the village of Tweedbank on 5 February 2015.


We've proved that a railway makes a tangible difference to the social and economic prospects of any region.

Simon Walton

Chairman of the Campaign for Borders Rail

Fascinating facts

Beeching's cuts to the UK's rail network were famous for their savagery. His 1963 report recommended the closing of 5,000 miles of track and over 2,000 stations.

There are now more than 1,500 miles of cycle pathway in Britain that have been built on old rail track - most of it generated by Beeching's cuts.

The reopened Borders line has cost roughly £10m a mile to rebuild.

People who made it happen

  • Client: Scottish government
  • Contractor: Network Rail

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