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Lie of the land O

The Airdrie to Bathgate line re-opened in December 2010, but only after a lot of hard work behind the scenes to acquire the land needed for the scheme. Odell Milne gives a property lawyer’s perspective on the preparatory work

n 12 December 2010, the Airdrie-to-Bathgate railway – the longest new railway constructed in Scotland for 100 years – opened on time. The

construction involved building 22km of new route and upgrading 31km of existing route; laying 65km of new track; the upgrading or replacement of 69 bridges; and electrification of 106km of overhead line. During the peak construction period in 2009, 300 pieces of plant and 1,000 workers were on-site or servicing the worksite. From start to finish, around 4.5 million hours were worked. It was a major infrastructure project by any measure and Network Rail’s team

Balfour Beatty works to reinstate the track between Airdrie and Bathgate, including double-tracking existing track sections and electrifying the entire route

overcame many challenges during the development, design, and construction periods. So why is a property lawyer writing this article? Because our firm played a significant role in the land referencing, statutory compliance and land assembly for the properties on which the railway was constructed. Before construction could commence, 6,000 affected parties were consulted and formally notified and nearly 1,000 plots of land had to be acquired. In view of these obstacles, how did the team secure delivery on time?

Managing notification The construction of the railway and the compulsory acquisition of land was

authorised by a private act of the Scottish Parliament. Strict rules govern private acts, and strict compliance with notification rules was crucial to avoid delay at the bill stage. Careful searches in the Land and Sasines

Registers and examination of titles combined with visits to all households along the route helped to make sure that no one was missed. The information collected was checked, double-checked and carefully recorded in Brodies’ Railway Manager system, a bespoke program that also collates the notices and assists with easy, quick, clear and practical responses to enquiries from the public. Preparing and serving statutory notices

on 6,000 parties involves an enormous amount of paperwork. Using a digitised system avoided many hours of collating documents and minimised the risk of human error, which could have invalidated the process. From an early stage team members, led by programme sponsor Alan Macmillan and legal advisor Karen Gribben, shared a belief and commitment that helped towards the project’s successful delivery. For example, when more than 300 letters sent by recorded

PAGE 34 MAY 2011

Balfour Beatty

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