Less than a hundredth of a £200 million fund set aside to improve the north-east’s rail infrastructure has been spent – 13 years after it was first announced.
The Scottish Government pledged the money to reduce journey times between Aberdeen and Dundee, Glasgow and Edinburgh in 2008.
It was subsequently reannounced in 2016 as part of the Aberdeen City Region Deal, with plans in place to have the works completed by 2026.
However, Holyrood ministers have now admitted that less than £2m has been spent on the improvements, which could cut travel times by nearly half an hour between Scotland’s main cities.
Transport chief Graeme Dey revealed just £1.68m had been used so far in response to a question submitted by north-east Conservative MSP Liam Kerr.
Rail project ‘forgotten’
Mr Kerr, the party’s transport spokesman, said it appeared the project had been “forgotten” by the government.
“Speeding up journeys between Aberdeen and the Central Belt was promised for so long, it looks like Ministers have entirely forgotten about it,” he said.
“But it was a key part of the Aberdeen region city deal.
“A 20-minute reduction in journey times was pledged and this was meant to herald a speedy and more modern service for north-east travellers and visitors.
“Less than a hundredth of the money has been spent, and we appear to be no further forward.
“I want to know whether that has been abandoned entirely.
“And if so, have the SNP spent the money elsewhere?”
Work on the upgrades – which could cut trips between the Granite City and the central belt by up to 24 minutes – is expected to be completed in 2026.
However, transport chiefs are yet to confirm exactly how the savings will be achieved, with the final options for the work not expected to come forward until next year.
A number of investigations and surveys are due to be carried out over the course of this year to determine the best course of action.
Project is among ‘highest priorities’
A spokesman for Transport Scotland, the national transport agency, insisted the project remains one of the Scottish Government’s “highest priorities”.
“More than 20 options to enhance services are currently being assessed, with a view to a final decision being made by next spring,” he said. Network Rail engineers and its contractors will be on site shortly to carry out detailed ground investigations and other topographical works.
“The project is being developed extremely efficiently at the same time as our exciting decarbonisation programme between the north-east and the central belt and the two projects require to be developed simultaneously to ensure maximum value for public money.
“This is a huge project, involving multiple partners, who are all working together to ensure the benefits are delivered by 2026 as promised alongside the Aberdeen City Region Deal.”