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Video: Possible routes for new north-east railway showcased as chamber boss asks ‘why not?’

l-r Wyndham Williams, co-chairman of the Campaign for North East Rail, Scotland's Railway managing director Alex Hynes, and Aberdeen and Grampian Chamber of Commerce CEO Russell Borthwick.
l-r Wyndham Williams, co-chairman of the Campaign for North East Rail, Scotland's Railway managing director Alex Hynes, and Aberdeen and Grampian Chamber of Commerce CEO Russell Borthwick.

New trains from Aberdeen to Ellon and onwards to Peterhead and Fraserburgh can help deliver a “just transition” and unlock economic growth across the north-east.

That was the message that came across loud and clear at a rail-focused event at the headquarters of brewer and pub operator BrewDog in Ellon.

Attendees got to see the “premiere” of a video showing route options as the Campaign for North East Rail (CNER) accelerates, buoyed by recent cross-party support.

Speakers included CNER co-chairman Wyndham Williams and Alex Hynes, managing director of Scotland’s Railway, who gave an update on planned investment and enhancements on the network to reduce journey times between Aberdeen and the central belt.

Alex Hynes, MD of Scotland’s Railway.

The audience heard three different proposals for rebuilding rail links that were lost decades ago as a result of the Beeching cuts.

Two preferred options would see new trains reach Fraserburgh, via Newmachar, Pitmedden and Ellon.

One of these would also serve Cruden Bay, Peterhead and St Fergus on the same line.

Splitting the line at Ellon, with one branch going to Peterhead and another to Fraserburgh, via Strichen and Maud, would put the new railway within easy reach of the most people.

A last glimpse of the Buchan train as it rounds the bend at Ellon Station on its final journey in 1965.

The least favoured option – CNER says it should be considered only if the other two potential routes are deemed not to be feasible – would deliver the shortest railway but only to Peterhead and St Fergus, and not Fraserburgh.

It could deliver two railway stations in Peterhead, including a park and ride facility at Inverugie.

CNER says new rail links can boost tourism, support wider economic growth and deliver environmental benefits by creating new rail freight opportunities and getting more traffic off the roads.

The campaign group says they would also help to support major new developments in the region, including a proposed green freeport for Aberdeen and Peterhead, hydrogen production, and the new carbon capture and storage project earmarked for St Fergus.

In addition, they are expected to give the region’s food and drink firms, such as BrewDog, new freight options. Daily fish consignments to England and mainland Europe could start off from new rail freight terminals at Peterhead and Fraserburgh.

New rail links from Ellon could help the town’s world-famous brewer, BrewDog, get more of its beers off the road network.

CNER is trying to build support for an official feasibility study into the project. It is also campaigning for the reinstatement of the Deeside Railway between Aberdeen and Banchory, opening up the potential for many new travel options across Aberdeenshire.

The likely cost, engineering challenges and benefits of new train services north of Aberdeen compare favourably with those of the £350 million Borders Railway, which has connected Edinburgh with Galashiels and Tweedbank since 2015, the audience heard.

The Borders Railway, which opened in 2015.

The event was arranged by Aberdeen and Grampian Chamber of Commerce, whose chief executive, Russell Borthwick, said: “What we have heard today is about the art of the possible.

“We’ve heard from experts who have looked in some detail at how the region’s economy can benefit and how we can bring more people into social inclusion. and how we could strengthen our regional green freeport bid if we replicate, here in the north-east of Scotland, the Borders Railway.

This ticks lots and lots of boxes.”

Russell Borthwick, Aberdeen and Grampian Chamber of Commerce.

“At a time when we are looking to decarbonise and take traffic off roads, the best way to do that is to provide viable public and freight transport options. This ticks lots and lots of boxes.

“It’s a theme which has already overdelivered in the Borders, so what we are saying is why not in the north-east?”

Russell Borthwick, right, discusses trains with Mr Hynes.

Mr Hynes said strength of support and cost would be key factors in persuading the Scottish Government to back the project, adding: “I wish the campaign good luck.”

Transport Minister Jenny Gilruth was updated on the campaign during a visit to the north-east just last month, when she described the proposed railway as “a great idea”.

Mr Williams said it was “really heartening” to have people come forward to declare their support for CNER’s #ConnectOurCoast campaign.

He added: “Alex was positive – he’s in a position of significant leadership and got great insight on what is happening in the railways day to day. He particularly mentioned that freight operators are keen to get more operations running between Aberdeen and the central belt.

“Next steps for us now are getting both Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire councils on board and getting Nestrans (the region’s public-private transport partnership) to back us. We really want to have everyone shouting about this.”

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