The December timetable change saw Scotland getting its 358th railway station and the reinstatement of a station platform that was removed in the late 1980s. The new station at Robroyston, north east of Glasgow, and the new platform at Dunbar in East Lothian are, as Alex Hynes, managing director of Scotland’s Railway, put it, “further milestones as we build the best railway Scotland’s ever had”.
Another December milestone was the introduction of the full eight-coach service on the Edinburgh to Glasgow main line.
Robroyston lies just within the Glasgow city boundary, four miles from the city centre. Here, in 1305, Scottish hero William Wallace was captured when he was betrayed to the English. The location of his capture is marked by a monument next to one of the new housing estates in the area.
Proposals for a further housing development of 1,600 homes with a new hotel, primary school and outdoor sports facility were developed and approved in principle by the council in 2012, subject to the provision of a railway station. The city was keen that this development had rail access and offered a park and ride facility for traffic from the adjacent junction 2 of the M80 motorway.
Funding arrangements for the station were agreed in 2017. The council agreed to contribute £10 million towards the cost of a station and associated link road, which it will recoup when houses are complete through a legal agreement with the developers. Further funding for the station was provided from Transport Scotland’s new station fund and SPT (Strathclyde Partnership for Transport).
2017 also saw publication of Network Rail’s Hansford review, which considered how third parties could fund and deliver railway projects. Transport Scotland was also keen to promote innovative project delivery. Robroyston was to be such a project with train operator ScotRail responsible for the delivery of this third-party-funded station.
WSP had been involved with the Robroyston development since 2012, when business development director Douglas Rushforth supported the private developer, through Network Rail’s planning process, to develop a business case for the new station. Building on this experience, three WSP personnel were seconded to ScotRail’s Robroyston project team. ScotRail provided the remaining services and expertise, from operational safety and property management to sustainability and safety assurance, project management and property services. WSP’s secondees were Sarah Piscitelli, who joined ScotRail in January 2018 as the project manager, Chris Reid, who became the third-party representative from January 2019, and Kyra Wardle who, from July 2019, became the dedicated entry-into-service lead.
ScotRail also appointed Doig+Smith to act as the contract administrator under the design and build contract and to provide quantity surveying services. The Glasgow-based construction consultancy administered the construction contract, together with the management of contractor costs and the verification of works. ScotRail appointed the design and build contract to AmcoGiffen, with Atkins as designer.
Building the station
Work on the station started in September 2018. Sarah explained that one problem was the peaty ground on which the car parks were built. Overcoming this required 942 precast concrete piles with resilient and flexible Huesker (for car parks) and Tensar (for roads) soil reinforcement geogrids.
The station has two car parks. One is on the south side of the line, serving the settlement of Millerston, while the other, much larger, car park provides the park and ride facility from the M80 and will serve the future development of 1,600 homes. Hence this car park is reached by roundabouts from which there are currently no access roads.
Before ScotRail’s involvement, it was decided that, to ensure an acceptable OLE contact wire height, the station had to be located some distance from a nearby bridge and that the station’s construction required the four existing OLE structures to be replaced by five repositioned structures.
The platforms are a glass reinforced polymer (GRP)/steel system supplied by Dura Composites. This enabled the platforms to be built using rules of route possessions due to its modular lightweight components, which Sarah likened to assembling IKEA furniture. The system also has built-in height adjustment in the event of any settlement.
Sarah considered that the project was an excellent example of collaborative working. For example, the project had many stakeholders – all were involved in design meetings to ensure that designs were right first time. This process was led by Chris Reid, who ensured designs were submitted to Network Rail in a timely fashion, which led to approval in a matter of days.
Kyra Wardle’s role was also key. Not only did she have to submit the many documents to the Office of Rail and Road to ensure the station’s entry into service, but she also had to curate the many documents required for the health and safety file. This was particularly significant as ScotRail were building an asset that was to be handed over to Network Rail, which would then lease it back to ScotRail.
Glasgow’s 60th station
The first train called at Robroyston station at 08:37 on Sunday 15 December, which marked the introduction of the new timetable. The station is on the Glasgow Queen Street to Cumbernauld line. Twelve months previously, this route had been extended to provide a new Glasgow to Edinburgh service via Cumbernauld and Falkirk Grahamston, which is operated by ScotRail’s new class 385 units. Thus, the new station offers a half hourly service to both Glasgow and Edinburgh.
The unstaffed station cost £14 million and was built to time and budget. It has two 150-metre platforms, a pedestrian overbridge, stairs and access lifts and 263 car parking spaces, 12 of which offer electric vehicle charging and 20 accessible parking bays. There is scope for a third car park which would increase parking capacity to 400 spaces.
On 16th December, the station was inaugurated by Michael Matheson, Cabinet Secretary for Transport, Infrastructure & Connectivity, who unveiled a plaque to mark the occasion. When doing so he noted that “This ScotRail led project has used an innovative construction method and taken little over a year to complete, on time and within budget. Not only has it secured significant savings to the public purse, it has also given us key learning for future rail projects. This really is an excellent example of partnership working at its best.”
Unlike Robroyston, Dunbar is a well-established community having become a royal burgh in 1370. Its station was the halfway point on the Edinburgh to Berwick railway, which was the first railway across the Scottish Border when it opened in 1846. Not surprisingly, its Tudor-style two-story station building is listed as Category B. The station is 29 miles east of Edinburgh and has an irregular, roughly hourly service provided by LNER, CrossCountry trains and ScotRail. In 2018/19, it had 478,000 entries and exits, which is a 28 per cent increase on five years ago.
Up to December, Dunbar was a rare example of a station with a single platform, located on the Up-line loop, on one side of a busy main line. As a result, northbound trains on the East Coast main line stopping at Dunbar had to cross the Up line to call at the station. The Down line platform was removed in the 1980s during the East Coast electrification to allow the curve at the station to be realigned for higher speed. However, since then, the station’s single platform has become an increasingly difficult operational constraint due to the increased traffic on the main line. It also limited additional services from the station.
In 2016 a scheme was developed to provide a platform on the Down line. The final design was for a platform to accommodate LNER’s Azumas, with lifts and a 32-metre span footbridge. This long span is needed as the old and new platforms are some distance apart, due to the easing of the curve in the 1980s.
After discussions with East Lothian Council about design and amenity, planning permission was received in April 2018 for the construction of the footbridge and lifts. Listed building consent for the demolition of a former goods shed adjoining the station building was also obtained. This was required as the north side lift-shafts and steps were to be constructed on the site of this goods shed.
In November 2018, AmcoGriffen was appointed to undertake the design and construction of the new platform. This included the footbridge, lifts and steps, with associated demolition work, civil, mechanical and electrical works and the new 271-metre platform. This is long enough to accommodate a ten-coach Azuma train (two five-car units coupled together).
Work on site started in May 2019. The provision of the new platform entailed the demolition of the goods shed, the replacement of six OLE headspans with twin-track cantilever structures and the renewal of 50 metres and realignment of 300 metres of track.
Just as at Robroyston, the first train to use the platform did so at the start of the new timetable. This was an LNER Azuma on a Newcastle to Edinburgh service, timed to leave Dunbar at 10:04 on 15 December. The official opening of the new platform, which was provided at a cost of £13 million, took place on Tuesday the 17 December when guests were welcomed by Kris Kinnear, Network Rail commercial director, and speeches made by Bill Reeve, Transport Scotland director of Rail, and Jacqueline Bell of Dunbar Community Council.
After the speeches, there was a reception at which prizes were presented to winners of a safety poster competition from Dunbar Primary school. This was a good example of engagement with the local community. Another such example was the appointment of a community liaison manager, Allan Brooking, who was on site for two days a week. With the platform completed, he hosted a meeting between ScotRail and residents to minimise the nuisance from station announcements. At the reception, local rail campaigners praised his role in keeping the community informed and managing issues such as night-time piling adjacent to the nearby housing estate.
An interesting comparison
Dunbar’s new platform, provided at a cost of £13 million, will allow the provision of more trains to support increasing commuter traffic from an established community, whereas the £14 million Robroyston station has been built for a large housing development that has yet to be built. Each required a footbridge with lifts and steps. Both provide almost the same total platform length (Dunbar 271 metres, Robroyston 2 x 150 metres). However, the Robroyston project also required the provision of two car parks, a total of 263 spaces, on difficult ground.
Thus, these two projects are in many ways quite similar. Yet, with one delivered by ScotRail and the other managed by Network Rail, no doubt more detailed comparisons are being made. Whatever the results of any such analysis, there is no doubt both stations will deliver significant benefits for their local communities.