Stirling-Alloa-Kincardine railway line needs rebuild
The Stirling-Alloa-Kincardine line is expected to be closed for periods over the next five years while “pretty extensive engineering work” is carried out, according to sources.
Network Rail has confirmed it is planning substantial repairs to the line, which was built by other firms.
The work – costing a fifth of the original construction price – is likely to involve excavation down to the foundations in places.
Speed restrictions have been imposed on sections of the 13-mile line because of its condition, although officials stress there are no safety risks.
Passenger trains run over half of the line, as far east as Alloa, which have reconnected the Clackmannanshire town to the rail network after a gap of 40 years. Coal trains run on to Longannet Power Station near Kincardine.
Network Rail said repairs would start at Cambus and Kennet, each side of Alloa.
The problems are understood to stem from the way the track was laid on soft ground, with the railway moving out of shape. The situation has been made worse by wetter conditions and more coal trains than anticipated.
An industry source said: “The foundations have been found not to be robust and have become prone to wear and tear. When you get to that point, it is effectively rebuilding. It will be quite a significant spend.”
News of the further work comes a year after Scotland on Sunday revealed that at least £1m of extra repairs have been carried out on the line, Scotland’s first new rail line since devolution.
Mid-Scotland and Fife Labour MSP Dr Richard Simpson expressed anger at the need for further work.
He said: “This is an extraordinary situation – there has been a failure to future-proof the railway.”
Network Rail said it could not put a cost on the repairs, but it is understood to be around £17m.
A spokesman said: “We intend to carry out a rolling programme of works to renew some sections of the line that require formation treatment to support the ongoing tonnages of coal traffic.
“The full scope, timings and costs of the project have still to be finalised.”
The line has been beset with problems since it became the first new railway to be approved by the Scottish Parliament in 2004.
Its costs rocketed from £37m to £85m and completion was two-and-a-half years late.
After the line opened, it had to be shut again for four weekends for track repairs.
The problems centred on poor management of the project, which was run by Clackmannanshire Council and the now-scrapped City of Edinburgh Council transport body Tie, before being taken over by Transport Scotland in 2007.
An Audit Scotland report the following year blamed “weak project governance” and “misaligned roles and responsibilities” for the fiasco.
An industry expert agreed the fault lay with the way the project had been handled rather than the construction firms involved: BAM Nuttall and Babcock Rail.
They said: “It was not about tatty nails or poor workmanship but design issues. The contractors were pulling their hair out about the management of the project. They built what they were told to build.” Both firms declined to comment.
Transport minister Keith Brown, who is believed to have used the line to reach his home in Dollar, was the council leader while the parliamentary bill for the scheme was prepared.
However, a council spokeswoman said no councillors “were directly involved in the development of the project”.