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Proposal for new Elgin road could hit dead end… After railway expansion plans emerge

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Ben Hendry

Plans to build a new link road to ease congestion in Elgin may have already hit a dead end amid plans to expand the town’s railway station.

Moray Council spent £100,000 on forming a transport strategy to ease gridlock around the heart of the town last year.

Among the ideas, which would cost up to £30million to implement, was the creation of a new route between Maisondieu Road and Ashgrove Road in the east of the town.

The proposal would have involved purchasing an area of sidings east of Elgin’s railway station for construction work.

However, it has now emerged that Scotrail want to build a new depot and overnight stabling buildings for diesel trains alongside the tracks.

The firm yesterday confirmed it was in the midst of forming a business case for the development.

A spokesman said: “We have made good progress in making a commercial case for overnight stabling of diesel trains and a small train crew depot at Elgin, but we have still got some work to do on this.”

Last night, Moray Council vowed to do all it could to ensure both projects remain “compatible” with one another.

But Elgin Community Council believes the growth of the railway station must come first, and that any conflict of interest should result in the road plan being scrapped.

Chairman Alistair Kennedy said: “This seems to be a big problem for the transport strategy.

“I understand the council wants to buy part of that land, but we would be dead against that if it would impact on improving rail transport for people in Moray.

“Overnight stabling means that trains will be able to leave Elgin first thing in the morning, without coming from Aberdeen or Inverness first, which would be a big bonus for rail commuters in the town.

“The jury is still out on whether a lot of measures suggested as part of the strategy will be of great benefit, and this could force the council to go back to the drawing board on some of it.”

More than 800 residents contributed to the Elgin Transport Strategy, and half of the responses said “traffic and congestion” was the biggest problem in the area.

There are fears the issue is only going to get worse in coming years, with the town expected to undergo a population boom as 2,700 more homes are built by 2030.

Local authority officials believe that will mean an extra 15,000 car trips into Elgin every day – and say radical steps must be taken to avert a “significant deterioration” in conditions.

Dozens of measures aimed at ending gridlock were revealed in a Moray Council masterplan last December.

It was formed after plans to create a Western Link Road over the railway line between Edgar Road and Wittet Drive were scrapped.

The contentious scheme would have included an extra rail crossing near Wittet Drive.

After years of debate, and public protests against the initiative, it was axed last March.

Elgin City South councillor, John Divers, was one of the main supporters of the new transport strategy formed.

He said drastic measures would be required to relieve the burden on the town’s road system as its population expands.

Mr Divers said: “The Scotrail plan is to be welcomed, as it would mean jobs at this new depot.

“But the potential conflict that creates with our transport strategy is an issue I have raised with council officers, as they must determine how much ground that rail expansion will require.”

A Moray Council spokesman added: “We are aware of Scotrail’s proposals and they are aware of the council’s transport strategy for Elgin and, as matters progress, there will be ongoing dialogue to ensure that both projects are compatible.”

Other measures suggested under the transport strategy include restricting vehicle movement around schools at peak times, improving junctions and converting Moss Street into a one-way road.

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