RAIL passengers could face lengthy delays if a train breaks down on the new Borders Railway.

It follows the revelation that no siding has been built anywhere along the 30 mile route to house a recovery vehicle.

And, with limited passing places on the line between Edinburgh and Tweedbank, it is feared that any attempts for a rescue locomotive to retrieve a broken down train could cause widespread disruption to the whole timetable.

The concerns were raised during a presentation on the £295million construction project organised by the Chartered Institution of Highways and Transportation (CIHT) in the Abbotsford Arms Hotel, Galashiels, on Thursday evening.

The guest speaker at the event was the man who has overseen the design and construction of the Borders Railway over the last three years.

Colin MacDonald, a project manager with Network Rail, defended the decision by Transport Scotland to slash the provision of double track from 16 miles to 9.5 miles.

And he explained the cost of being fined for late or cancelled trains was considerably less than the cost of double tracking the line which, he said, could cost £50 million more.

Addressing the meeting ahead of the lines reopening in September, Mr MacDonald said: “It’s single track because the timetable only requires single track. If we had double track, it would have cost considerably more.

“We (Network Rail) took on this scheme as it was and politicians had to justify the cost to their masters.” But, referring to the likelihood of a breakdown, he added: “That’s going to happen twice a year maybe, I’ll take the flak for it when it does.” Last year, Network Rail was fined a record £53million for late running trains.

And the meeting heard that ScotRail’s least reliable trains, the Class 158s, would run on the new Borders Railway which, it has emerged, was not renamed the Waverley line, as it had been known in the past, to avoid confusion with the station in the capital.

It is expected that most trains will take longer than the promised 55 minutes between Edinburgh and Tweedbank, near Galashiels, with some completing the 35-mile trip in up to one hour six minutes.

In addition, the timetable published last week has indicated that six services are expected to be cancelled two days a week for the first six weeks to make room for steam trains because much of the line is single track.

Mr MacDonald added: “When it opens I think it will be very, very busy to begin with. The amount of interest the project has generated during its construction was phenomenal.

“The further south it went, the more interest it generated.

“Since rail privatisation in 1997, rail passenger traffic has gone through the roof. Rail is a huge success story and so will the Borders be.” When asked if there were any plans to extend the route further south to Melrose, Hawick or Carlisle, Mr MacDonald replied: “There’s no plan to do that, that’s not to say it can’t be done.

“One of the biggest obstacles would be the Melrose bypass which takes the route of the old line for four or five miles.” But he added: “I’m not going to pull the wool over your eyes, it’s not on our horizon or on Transport Scotland’s horizon.” The meeting heard Galashiels is the only station on the new line not to have a car park.

Mr MacDonald, who admitted that the works at Falahill were a “scar” on the landscape, revealed the preferred location for the town’s new station would have been at Currie Road - but supermarket giant Asda got their first.

However, he pointed out that the railway tunnel under the Edinburgh bypass had been built 20 metres longer than it needed to be to accommodate proposals for a flyover at the Sheriffhall Roundabout.

And, with planning permission for more than 4000 homes at Shawfair alone, he claimed the Borders Railway would act as a catalyst for development across the region.

Thanking Mr MacDonald for his presentation, Ryan Hutchison, CIHT’s central and southern Scotland branch chair, said: “The construction industry in Scotland has suffered from some bad projects, or projects which have had some bad publicity, the trams being the obvious one - so it’s great to see something delivered on time and on budget and that’s very much what Network Rail have done and they should be commended for.”