Proposals to reintroduce the Buchan railway from Aberdeen to Peterhead and Fraserburgh have been given a boost – with the SNP pledging to debate the idea at its party conference.
The original Formartine and Buchan line closed in 1979 after more than a century of service between the two north-east ports and the city.
The route was scrapped as part of the controversial Beeching closures.
Reintroducing the track to the towns – which are the furthest from the national rail network – has been a divisive issue for years.
In 2015, a similar project to reopen the 30-mile Borders branch line was completed at a cost of £358million.
During this year’s general election campaign former First Minister Alex Salmond sparked a row among candidates in Aberdeenshire when he and colleague Eilidh Whiteford pledged to fight for the route to be rebuilt.
Both Mr Salmond and Ms Whiteford were voted out in a Conservative landslide in the north-east, but now their SNP colleagues have revealed the Buchan railway will be considered at this year’s party conference in October.
Aberdeenshire East MSP Gillian Martin said: “Last year north-east representatives including myself and Stewart Stevenson MSP met with Humza Yousaf to discuss the very issue of transport links and the impact restoration of rail links could have in boosting the local and regional economies.
“There is also a joint resolution for the SNP conference in October calling for a Buchan rail link from the constituency associations of Donside, Aberdeenshire East and Banffshire and Buchan Coast submitted to the SNP conference.”
The revelation comes after Liberal Democrat MSP Mike Rumbles accused Mr Salmond of “empty promises”.
Mrs Martin added: “Mike Rumbles is correct – the region does need better – which is exactly why we have been getting on with the day job and working hard to meet with the Scottish Government and the transport minister.”
Peterhead’s SNP councillor Stephen Smith said: “Work is indeed happening, but it needs to be fully assessed and worked up by the transportation partnership so it can be put forward to the Scottish Government for further assessment.”
North-east transport partnership Nestrans has launched a study into transport links between Aberdeen and the Buchan corner which includes road and rail options.