A group tasked with driving forward £200million of rail improvements between the north-east and central belt has been blasted as a government “talking shop” after it emerged that just one of 11 representatives is from a body based north of Perth.
A document seen by the Press and Journal details the membership and remit of the Aberdeen to Central Belt – Reference Group, which was set up when the Scottish Government announced the investment at the time of the city deal two years ago.
The pledge included £200million to increase capacity on rail links between Aberdeen and the Central Belt including an upgrade to the line at the Montrose basin.
But of the 11 members of the group, five are from government body Transport Scotland.
Other members include representatives from Network Rail, Scotrail, Perth-based transport body Tactran, the Rail Delivery Group, the Department of Transport and Yorkshire based DB Cargo.
Only Derick Murray of north-east regional transport body Nestrans has been listed among the membership from the region.
Last night, there were calls for more north-east representatives including elected members to keep watch on progress.
North-east Conservative MSP Liam Kerr said: “Unfortunately, all we have so far is a talking shop of people, hand-picked by Transport Scotland, with little or no connection to the north-east.
“It is surprising that there are no councillors or MSPs on this group, and only one member that can speak up for passengers and businesses in this area.
“With all due respect to those involved, the remit suggests that there is no great urgency to get anything done any time soon.”
Aberdeen City Council co-leader Jenny Laing said: “I am delighted that at last the Scottish Government has set up a reference group to deliver on the development and operation of the Aberdeen to central belt rail corridor.
“I am however, extremely disappointed that the reference group does not include representatives from the two local authority partners.”
A spokeswoman for Transport Scotland said: “Our aim is to ensure the rail service between Aberdeen and the Central belt improves transport connectivity and provides enhanced performance when travelling between cities.
“The Aberdeen to Central Belt Reference Group includes representatives from Transport Scotland, Network Rail, Nestrans and Tactran, who represent the interests of the locally elected members, as well as the ScotRail Alliance, freight and passenger rail service operators.”