Calendar An icon of a desk calendar. Cancel An icon of a circle with a diagonal line across. Caret An icon of a block arrow pointing to the right. Email An icon of a paper envelope. Facebook An icon of the Facebook "f" mark. Google An icon of the Google "G" mark. Linked In An icon of the Linked In "in" mark. Logout An icon representing logout. Profile An icon that resembles human head and shoulders. Telephone An icon of a traditional telephone receiver. Tick An icon of a tick mark. Is Public An icon of a human eye and eyelashes. Is Not Public An icon of a human eye and eyelashes with a diagonal line through it. Pause Icon A two-lined pause icon for stopping interactions. Quote Mark A opening quote mark. Quote Mark A closing quote mark. Arrow An icon of an arrow. Folder An icon of a paper folder. Breaking An icon of an exclamation mark on a circular background. Camera An icon of a digital camera. Caret An icon of a caret arrow. Clock An icon of a clock face. Close An icon of the an X shape. Close Icon An icon used to represent where to interact to collapse or dismiss a component Comment An icon of a speech bubble. Comments An icon of a speech bubble, denoting user comments. Comments An icon of a speech bubble, denoting user comments. Ellipsis An icon of 3 horizontal dots. Envelope An icon of a paper envelope. Facebook An icon of a facebook f logo. Camera An icon of a digital camera. Home An icon of a house. Instagram An icon of the Instagram logo. LinkedIn An icon of the LinkedIn logo. Magnifying Glass An icon of a magnifying glass. Search Icon A magnifying glass icon that is used to represent the function of searching. Menu An icon of 3 horizontal lines. Hamburger Menu Icon An icon used to represent a collapsed menu. Next An icon of an arrow pointing to the right. Notice An explanation mark centred inside a circle. Previous An icon of an arrow pointing to the left. Rating An icon of a star. Tag An icon of a tag. Twitter An icon of the Twitter logo. Video Camera An icon of a video camera shape. Speech Bubble Icon A icon displaying a speech bubble WhatsApp An icon of the WhatsApp logo. Information An icon of an information logo. Plus A mathematical 'plus' symbol. Duration An icon indicating Time. Success Tick An icon of a green tick. Success Tick Timeout An icon of a greyed out success tick. Loading Spinner An icon of a loading spinner. Facebook Messenger An icon of the facebook messenger app logo. Facebook An icon of a facebook f logo. Facebook Messenger An icon of the Twitter app logo. LinkedIn An icon of the LinkedIn logo. WhatsApp Messenger An icon of the Whatsapp messenger app logo. Email An icon of an mail envelope. Copy link A decentered black square over a white square.

Hourly trains were promised from Inverness and Elgin to Aberdeen 15 years ago: What happened to them?

Transport Scotland wanted to drive down journey times and improve connections to boost communities between the cities.

Looking down at Elgin railway station with two trains at platforms.

Hourly ScotRail train services between Inverness, Elgin and Aberdeen were promised of a Transport Scotland review 15 years ago.

A strategic review of road and rail across the country stressed the improvements would encourage public transport over car travel, reduce pollution and improve connectivity to Highland and Moray communities.

The 2009 blueprint even suggested work could begin before 2014.

However, while the latest ScotRail timetables have had hourly trains between Elgin and Inverness – connections to Aberdeen remain inconsistent.

Passengers getting off train at Inverness railway station.
Passengers were expecting more connections from Inverness and Elgin to Aberdeen. Image: DC Thomson

Despite hourly trains in the morning, there are timetable gaps of more than 1hr 45mins during weekday afternoons.

Business leaders have warned the lack of connections from Elgin through Aberdeen to the Central Belt hurts their ability to compete with the rest of the country.

ScotRail says it has made improvements in services in the Elgin and Inverness area and stressed current timetables meets the needs of the vast majority of passengers.

Have hourly trains from Inverness and Elgin to Aberdeen been forgotten?

Hourly trains between Aberdeen, Elgin and Inverness were heralded as “long-awaited” by business leaders in the Granite City and Highland capital when the vision was unveiled.

Despite initially projecting upgrades could cost up to £500 million, a smaller £330 million was declared “complete” in December 2019.

Newspaper clipping titled "Highland capital rail upgrade is on track for five-year finishing line".
The Press and Journal reported hourly trains from Inverness and Elgin to Aberdeen were on track to be introduced in 2016 in 2011. Image: DC Thomson

The works included new sections of double-track, including at the new Forres station, lengthened platforms for new trains at Elgin and Insch and improvements to prepare the new for new stations at Inverness Airport and Kintore.

However, while hourly trains have been mostly introduced between Elgin and Inverness, apart from a gap from 6.59am to 8.56am between Inverness departures to Elgin, and half-hourly trains are running from Inverurie to Aberdeen – hourly connections from Inverness to Aberdeen have not been delivered.

When contacted by the Press and Journal, ScotRail did not address the reasons why hourly trains between the cities have not been introduced.

Train at Elgin railway station.
Hourly trains have been introduced between Elgin, Forres, Nairn and Inverness. Image: Jason Hedges/DC Thomson

Instead, Scott Prentice, ScotRail’s strategy and planning director, explained there had been “fantastic investment” in the Inverness and Moray areas in recent years.

He added: “In response to customer feedback, we introduced a later evening service between Inverness and Elgin as part of the December 2023 timetable change, and we will continue to enhance our timetables to support further the tremendous growth in passenger journeys experienced over the last year.

“We haven’t had any direct feedback relating to a lack of services between Moray and Aberdeen, and would be happy to meet any of our stakeholders to discuss their needs.”

How more trains could help Moray economy

Current ScotRail train timetables have 18 return services between Elgin and Inverness from Mondays to Saturdays, but just 11 to Aberdeen.

The earliest connections to the Central Belt mean passengers from Elgin can’t get to Edinburgh before 9.30am, or Glasgow before 10am.

Meanwhile, it is impossible to get from Elgin or Forres to either Aberdeen or Inverness before 12noon on Sundays.

Moray Chamber of Commerce says the lack of public transport options to major cities is harming local firms.

Chief executive Sarah Medcraf said: “To be competitive as a region we need to be connected and our reliance on frequent rail services form part of that.

“Whether it is those travelling into Moray for work or people visiting the region for recreational use such as leisure and entertainment, having regular and reliable public transport is paramount.

Sarah Medcraf smiling at camera leaning on wall in Elgin town centre.
Moray Chamber of Commerce chief executive Sarah Medcraf. Image: Jason Hedges/DC Thomson

“We are all too aware of the troubles we face getting out of Moray and into the Central Belt for a 10am start. Any expansions of the timetable needs to consider both commuters and the general public in any plans.”

The new ScotRail timetable promised nearly 100 new weekday services as well as adding capacity on some Inverness to Edinburgh services.

However, no improvements are coming next month to the Aberdeen, Elgin and Inverness line – despite a now-deleted tweet promising 12 extra trains.

Highlands and Islands MSP Douglas Ross has called for timetable gaps to be closed on services from Elgin and Forres to Aberdeen.

The picture shows Douglas Ross MSP in a suit holding a letter in his hand.
Highlands and Islands MSP Douglas Ross. Image: Jason Hedges/DC Thomson

He said: “Passengers across Moray continue to be short-changed under SNP-controlled Scotrail.

“It is deeply disappointing that that there continues to be so few services connecting Forres and Elgin with Aberdeen in this latest timetable update.

“SNP ministers repeatedly talk about encouraging people onto trains but if the services are not there, then it simply will not happen, particularly in our rural areas.”