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Confidence high that north-east rail extension remains on track for consideration

Cabinet secretary for transport Michael Matheson.
Cabinet secretary for transport Michael Matheson.

Politicians calling for the extension of a north-east rail line have had their hopes of success raised after being offered encouragement by the Scottish Government’s transport chief.

North-east representatives at Holyrood, Gillian Martin and Stewart Stevenson say they’re encouraged by the cabinet secretary for transport Michael Matheson’s response in parliament to a question of a rail extension raised by Ms Martin.

The Scottish Government is currently spending £330million on railways between Aberdeen and Inverness, including the new £15m Kintore station which opened in October.

And as part of the City Region Deal, a further £200m has been spent on increasing passenger and freight capacity between Aberdeen and the central belt.

Ms Martin is keen to see a further commitment to the north-east, and asked Holyrood this week what plans were being made to  extend rail tracks 55 miles north to Peterhead, via Ellon and Fraserburgh, and 46 miles to Banff, via Turriff.

“Further rail links between Aberdeen and the north-east are essential in allowing commuters to travel with a wider range of options that do not simply include cars or buses,” she said.

“As the Scottish Government continues its commitment to reducing its carbon footprint it is vital areas like the north-east are considered in extending rail links further making the city more accessible for those who do not have a car.

“At the moment residents in my constituency and further north in Stewart Stevenson’s simply do not have enough public transport options for travelling into the city and I am fully supportive of the Scottish Government’s assessment of a number of travel options to consider this further.”

Aberdeen east MSP Gillian Martin. Picture by Jim Irvine

Mr Matheson said almost £7.6m had been spent on infrastructure to promote cycling, walking and safer streets as well as a £1m-plus spend on bus infrastructure including a roll-out of electric vehicle charging infrastructure, low-carbon vehicles and support for hydrogen buses across the region.

He said: “As part of our on-going work on the strategic transport projects review process, a number of interventions have been identified in the north-east, including the possibility of, particularly as a rail option, a new line into the wider transport network from Aberdeen, Peterhead and Fraserburgh.

“As part of the STPR2 process, we are presently considering 41 proposals for transport options in the north-east of Scotland. I assure the member that the proposed new line is one of those options.”

Ms Martin said afterwards: “I welcome everything that the cabinet secretary has said, particularly on the dualling of the rail track from Aberdeen to Inverness and on the new Kintore station. However, the top corner of the north-east continues to be without any plans for new railway infrastructure.”

Mr Stevenson, who represents Banffshire and Buchan Coast, added he was “encouraged” by the comments in the chamber.

“I fully support any call for a rail link which connects Aberdeen to areas of my constituency including Fraserburgh and Peterhead,” he added. “The cabinet secretary’s words are encouraging and I look forward to progressing the potential for the rail line to be extended.”

Last month, Scottish Conservative Party leader, Moray MP Douglas Ross, pledged his support to a review of  the 1960s Beeching railway cuts.

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