NORTH Liberal Democrat MP Danny Alexander has demanded action from ministers to reinstate plans for a rail halt near Inverness Airport at Dalcross, after learning it was now a low priority.
Mr Alexander wrote to Transport Minister Stewart Stevenson asking how the project would be funded following their decision to scrap funding to Hitrans, the region’s transport partnership.
Hitrans had planned to fund work on the project over a number of years, starting this year.
Now, in a letter to the MP, Transport Scotland chief executive Malcolm Reed has dashed hopes of early progress.
In his letter, Mr Reed said: “Scottish ministers have published their High Level Output Specification (HLOS) which sets out an aspiration to improve the Aberdeen-Inverness line between 2009 and 2014.
“We will consider the possibility of a station at Dalcross as part of a package of proposal for the Aberdeen-Inverness line following the outcome of the HLOS process and through the Strategic Transport Projects Review.”
But the document referred to unspecified work on the Aberdeen to Inverness line as a “third-tier” priority and assigns no funding between 2009 and 2014.
Mr Alexander said: “It is very clear from the Scottish Government’s rail projects document that a station for Dalcross is the lowest of low priorities.
“There is no funding assigned at all, and no plan to begin work.
“That is totally unacceptable when the A96 is already the most congested road in the Highlands.
“The delays faced by people travelling between Inverness and Nairn are only set to become more serious.
“The airport terminal expansion has already been delayed, and this further undermines those plans.
“The SNP Government chose to centralise the funding of transport projects, and now we are left with a strategy which pays no heed to the severe localised pressure on the A96 corridor, and proposes to do nothing soon.
“Stewart Stevenson must recognise the importance of this project and take responsibility for its delivery as soon as possible.”