EXCLUSIVE - by Doug Collie, Staff Reporter
The amount of money spent on the acquisition of residential and commercial properties blighted by the Borders Railway Project far outstripped the estimates set out in the scheme's original Business Plan, according to figures disclosed by Transport Scotland.
Statistics obtained via a Freedom of Information request and passed on to the Not Just Sheep and Rugby office show the rail developers had to fork out 50 per cent more for homes and businesses in the Scottish Borders and Midlothian than originally planned. And that overspend has taken place despite fewer acquisitions than were originally envisaged by the Scottish Government and the construction companies working on the project.
The Waverley Railway Outline Business Case suggested it would be necessary to purchase 51 residential properties together with three commercial premises in the Borders to make way for the reinstatement of the line between Edinburgh and Tweedbank. The cost of the acquisitions was put at £5.555 million.
At the same time the project team claimed it would be necessary to buy 12 houses and two businesses in Midlothian at a total cost of £2.17 million. The business case concluded that by re-selling some or all of the affected properties some £4.1 million would be recouped once the project was completed.
Transport Scotland has now confirmed that 38 residential buildings and nine commercial properties have been acquired or are in the process of being purchased in the Borders involving a total outlay of £7.8 million which is 40% higher than the original cost estimate.
Meanwhile the amount spent in Midlothian on the purchase of 11 houses and two businesses adds up to £3.8 million, 75% above the figure contained in the Business Plan.
The Freedom of Information response adds: "No resale value has yet been achieved as resale of the properties is unlikely to take place before twelve months has elapsed after the new line opens. Network Rail need to be confident that in operating the line they have retained control of all operational land."
Latest estimates for the total cost of the Borders Railway put the final figure at £353 million, well over double the original sum quoted when the project was first mooted.
It has also been claimed that Scottish Borders Council's hopes of paying their share of the project - some £8 million - through developer contributions from house builders have already been dashed because of much lower levels of activity by the construction industry than anticipated.
Trains are expected to be running to and from the Central Borders by September 2015. The Waverley Line closed in 1969, a victim of the Beeching Report which recommended the withdrawal of uneconomic rail services from many parts of the country.