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Pre-electrification work at West Calder suffers delays

Pre-electrification work on the Edinburgh-Glasgow route via Shotts will be subject to delays after Network Rail withdrew an application for planning permission to build a temporary road.

Network Rail applied to West Lothian Council for planning permission to build a 360m diversion to the A71 near Parkhead Primary School in West Calder while a bridge over the railway was closed. The bridge must be rebuilt to create enough height for the electrification of the railway line beneath.

A report by West Lothian Council planning inspectors acknowledged that the electrification project will have “tangible local and national benefits” and that denying planning permission will affect other works within the programme.

However, they recommended denying permission because the “significant adverse environmental affects” of the project would be disruptive to the school.

Network Rail said it had not received permission from the council to carry out mining remediation work under the bridge abutments, which it needs to do to ensure the integrity of the structure.

It also said it had noted that “residents and parents would prefer Network Rail pursue other options for rebuilding the structure”, and so it had decided to withdraw the application.

This means that the project cannot begin on schedule in January 2017, and that Network Rail has no option other than seeking the full closure of the A71 for 16 weeks.

Michelle McCaig, Network Rail’s project manager for the Shotts Line Electrification bridge clearance programme, said: “As we have previously acknowledged, the A71 is a critical link in the West Lothian road network and we do not take the decision to withdraw the planning application for the temporary diversion road lightly. We do this mindful of the impact that this potentially will have for both road users and those communities adjacent to the proposed diversion route.

“At this point, having not been granted access to undertake the mining remediation works, the programme we had outlined to the council in the planning application is unachievable and consequently we now have to take a different course. We believe this is the best way forward in terms of minimising the overall disruption that this project will have on the community.”

A recent report from the Office of Rail and Road warned that the Edinburgh Glasgow Improvement Programme is not on target to meet milestones in its electrification programme by the end of the year.

A spokesperson for West Lothian Council said: “We have been notified by Network Rail that it has withdrawn its planning application for a temporary road to divert the A71, which was due to be heard at the Development Management Committee on Tuesday 11 October.”  

(Image c. Network Rail)

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SWB   11/10/2016 at 23:53

As a former teacher at a school that underwent several expansions during my tenure, I can appreciate the concern that works near the school can disrupt schoolwork. But surely there is some alternative to shutting down the A71 for 4 months! Hopefully some saner heads will come to the fore to ward off such a massive pain in the you-know-where.

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