MOTORISTS in the Borders have been warned they face months of disruption as long-awaited work to complete a multi-million pound inner relief road gets underway this week.
Scottish Borders Council has confirmed it will drive ahead with plans to reopen Ladhope Vale and Bridge Place in Galashiels to two-way traffic on Monday, October 17.
A temporary traffic order is being enforced to ban vehicles travelling into town from High Buckholmside from turning right while gas works are undertaken.
The work will also include the start of improvements to the Stirling Street car park to construct the new Stirling Place junction with Ladhope Vale. It is latest phase in the Galashiels Inner Relief Road (GIRR) project which is designed to ease congestion in the town centre.
However, the local authority revealed it is hoped to stop work for a few weeks in December to help local traders in the run up to Christmas before resuming in the New Year.
Councillor Jim Fullarton, Scottish Borders Council's Executive Member for Roads and Infrastructure, said: "This is another big step forward in removing through traffic from the town centre. It will take members of the public a while to get used to the two way system on these streets, but will ultimately move the project on and ease congestion in the centre of Galashiels." Earlier this year, we reported business leaders have urged the council to drive ahead with changes to the road layout in Galashiels to stop the town becoming gridlocked.
It followed the announcement of plans for the new Transport Interchange, which will link local bus services with the new rail station when it opens in 2014.
The plans also include proposals to makeover Market Square and Cornmill Court, which would be closed to traffic, as well as the area in front of the former Post Office, in an effort to regenerate the town centre.
Councillor Fullarton said: "Phase 3 of the development will complete the inner relief road, which will significantly reduce traffic flow issues in the town centre." And he added: "Phase 4 will introduce pedestrian and parking improvements Market Street, Bank Street and the High Street during 2012 to improve the environment for local businesses, residents and users." The council revealed it would hand deliver letters to all residents and businesses in Galashiels affected by the inner relief road works to warn them of the disruption ahead. However, it pointed out alternative routes will be sign-posted.
A council spokesperson said: "There will be delays in progressing through the town centre. There will be disruption to access to Bridge Place, Bridge Street, Sime Place, High Street, Island Street, Johnston's Close, from the A7, due to the no right turn. There will also be an impact on the provision of car park spaces in Stirling Street." But they added: "It is the aim of the contractor to be off site by December 5 (2011) - dependant on weather conditions and issues encountered during the works - so that there is no adverse impact to the town centre during the build up to Christmas trading. Works will re-commence in the first week of January 2012." It is understood phase three of the GIRR project will also include some advance works for the Borders Railway which, with a new station planned at Ladhope Vale in Galashiels, it is hoped, will avoid more disruption to the town centre in future.
Rob Dickson, Director of Environment and Infrastructure at Scottish Borders Council, has urged local residents to be patient while the works are completed. He said: "Members of the public have been very patient while we have had major works progressing in the town. We hope that drivers and pedestrians will continue to accommodate the changes and be understanding whilst we achieve this next phase." Meanwhile, Scottish Borders Council has revealed it has given up any hope of using stone from the old textile college in the construction of the new Transport Interchange in Galashiels.
It follows a claim by the local authority that Tesco had reneged on a commitment to meet the costs of rebuilding the facade of the old building - which was demolished to make way for a new Tesco store in the town - in the new design.
A spokesman for Scottish Borders Council said: "Land assembly for the proposed Transport Interchange is ongoing and more detailed discussions are being held with the landowners involved.
"Procurement work to establish a multi-disciplinary design team to take the project through the detailed design stage and onto construction is now well underway." But he added: "The design is proceeding on the basis that the stone façade from the former textile college will not be used, and the current programme shows completion of the project is expected in 2014." The old facade is stored at a Tesco depot in Livingston. A spokesman for the supermarket giant said the company had been working towards giving the authority the stone for free and covering any "reasonable costs." He added: "If SBC no longer wants the stone then we will dispose of it and find another good cause for the money."