On the right track – it takes more than just rails to build a railway. Here’s a quick summary of the challenges ahead…

De Vegetation

De-vegetation & mitigation

Old railway lines are often vastly overgrown, and trees, shrubs and other debris need to be removed carefully. Vegetation is removed only where necessary to construct, maintain and operate the railway in the safest possible way. Any protected species living on the railway corridor will be moved or relocated under special licences and the utmost care is taken to protect environments which may be sensitive to the impact of construction work.

The design process & advance works

The project outline design establishes the principles of what we want to do. From there, a more detailed design provides comprehensive drawings of exactly what will be built and how this will be done. These drawings are available to view in the Maps & Plans section. 

You can download a schematic line overview of the new railway including passing loops.

We then carry out advance works, which is everything that has to be done before the physical construction of the railway can get underway. In the case of Borders Railway, this has involved demolitions, utility diversions and filling in former mine works to reduce the risk of future subsidence.

Design Process

Moving Earth

Moving heaven and earth

Earthworks are often the first and most visible sign that the railway is being built. Firstly, surface layers – in this case cycle-path tarmac– are removed. The ground is then excavated down, or built up to the level where the railway line will lie. Embankments or retaining walls are built either side of the track, using earth sourced from other locations which is then stabilised or re-enforced. Some of the pre-existing embankments will also require improvement. Drainage also needs to be created, as well as installing pumps, laying pipes, building storage tanks and building culverts (drains) which allow rainwater to flow underneath, and away from, the railway. 

Work to structures

There are a number of structures along the route: 137 bridges, 42 newly constructed and 95 in need of refurbishment. A variety of work is required to existing bridges in order to help them comply with safety standards and make them suitable for the railway to run over or under. We may have to demolish and re-build some structures, including the creation of entirely new roads. However, where parts of a bridge can be re-used, we will keep these in situ to minimise construction works and we only ever replace what is failing or unsuitable. 

Structure Work

Laying Sleepers

Laying the railway

First we create a railway formation (the foundation on which the railway lies). This is flattened, ready for ballast to be laid on top. Ballast consists of layers of crushed stone which form the track bed and also help to drain the railway. We then level and stabilise this ballast using special machinery, before laying sleepers at precise intervals all the way along the route. Then the tracks are finally laid on top and fixed into place.


Railways need electrical power for signalling, points and other systems. We bring this via the nearest connection points along the railway. This means laying cables in surrounding areas to the line of route, as well as the construction of several electrical cabinets. 


How -to -build -new -stations


Seven new stations will be built along the Borders Railway, serving the surrounding communities and connecting them to other parts of the Scottish Borders, Edinburgh and Midlothian. The time taken to construct each station will depend on the size of each station and its car park. Firstly, the area will be excavated and foundations laid, before all the other items of the station infrastructure, including platforms, shelters, ticket machines, signs and CCTV, can be installed.