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Where each party stands on rail links to Peterhead, Fraserburgh and Ellon

The Campaign for North East Rail is designed to reopen railway stations across the north-east.
The Campaign for North East Rail is designed to reopen railway stations across the north-east.

Communities all across the north-east left isolated by the closure of railways have long campaigned to have their local stations reopened.

And as the nation moves towards net zero, the fight to bring back rail connections to cut-off parts of the country is also gathering steam as part of efforts to decarbonise Scotland’s transport systems.

The Campaign for North East Rail (CNER) was established to pressure politicians and decision makers into returning railways to Aberdeenshire and get the region back on track.

The last freight train leaves Peterhead via Maud for Aberdeen. Sept 4th 1970

The campaigners think reopening the long-abandoned rail links to Peterhead, Fraserburgh and Ellon could bring huge advantages to these towns.

With May’s council election on the horizon, we put the same four key questions to the SNP, Labour, the Tories, the Lib Dems, Alba and the Greens to see where they stand on CNER’s ambitions.

Here are the six party representatives we questioned:

Check out the four questions, and their responses, below.

1. Do you support getting Ellon, Peterhead and Fraserburgh reconnected to the railway network?

Many north-east communities haven’t had a railway station since theirs was shut decades ago.

James Adams, Conservative:

“People in the Broch and Buchan have been promised it for long enough without any evidence of it being looked into, and cutting Buchan-Formartine and Dyce-Ellon from the STPR strategic review went down like a lead balloon up here. I think these would fly through assessments but it needs a political will to get to that point, that’s sadly been lacking at Holyrood.”

Peter Argyle, Lib Dem:

“Yes. We have been working through Aberdeenshire Council and Nestrans to develop a viable proposal for rail, out to Ellon and on to Peterhead. In an ideal world, including Fraserburgh in the project would be excellent but we recognise that this will be a considerable challenge.”

Craig Stewart, Green:

“Yes. Reconnecting Peterhead and Fraserburgh to the rail network are a vital part of our environmental and economic goals. Giving people more public transport options is important in reducing carbon emissions.”

Gwyneth Petrie, SNP:

“Yes, and our commitment to this will be in our Aberdeenshire manifesto.”

Leigh Wilson, Alba:

“Yes, linking Aberdeenshire communities via rail will be an essential component of our proposals to increase usage of public transport. We need to make public transport available and affordable to everyone if we want a behavioural shift — taxing people out of cars won’t cut it.”

Mark Lappin, Labour:

“Public transport issues are very important for our area in order to allow people access to work opportunities, shops, family and friends. Improving connectivity across Aberdeenshire, currently ill-served by public transport, will make a positive difference to these communities, as we’ve recently seen with the reopened station in Kintore.”

2: How should this be funded?

We asked the candidates who they think should pay for the project.

James Adams, Conservative:

“A major infrastructure project of national importance should be funded by national government. But Tory-led councils will have no problem asking for help from the UK Government when the SNP and Greens at Holyrood don’t stump up. The experience of the region deals and levelling up agenda has shown that local councils should have more of a say in areas which impact on them.”

Peter Argyle, Lib Dem:

“The project would have to be funded by the Scottish Government who have responsibility for such matters. The cost would be significant and would have to be set alongside Scottish Government’s existing commitments to decarbonise rail, our work to see Insch station made fully accessible and proposals for additional stations south of Aberdeen, including Newtonhill. It is likely that the Scottish Government would have to change the way such projects are assessed if it is to stand a chance of being developed.”

Craig Stewart, Green:

“Scottish Greens secured a commitment to new feasibility studies as part of our cooperation agreement with the Scottish Government. Once these studies are completed, we believe that part of the £5 billion investment in our railways, that we also secured, will become available.”

Gwyneth Petrie, SNP:

“In a similar model to how the Borders Railway was funded, and other railway infrastructure projects. I think we need to accept that this will take significant investment, but for significant and numerous benefits. Further, now that Scotrail is now in public ownership, any income will return to the public purse, rather than a private company.”

Leigh Wilson, Alba:

“There has been collaborative working in the past with north-east region deals so any future investment packages should look very closely at this — Aberdeenshire Council can offer funding, of course, but for the project to be fully realised we need partners in government to work with us.”

Mark Lappin, Labour:

“How to fund this is an important question. We need to balance the budget with the services we provide. Doing one thing means not doing another or, it means we need to be more efficient: smart in how we do everything. I would argue that within the capital budgets of the Scottish Government, where they set aside money for infrastructure, there is a good argument that Aberdeenshire should enjoy the same investment that has led to the successful Borders railway.”

3. How should this be delivered? All former stations reopened? Only certain stations?

Maud Junction in 1969. Jim Morrison, who was the only remaining member of staff, attends the noon Peterhead to Aberdeen goods train. The junction was where the line north of Aberdeen split into two routes for Peterhead and Fraserburgh, but shut entirely in 1979.

James Adams, Conservative:

“With the Formartine and Buchan way cycle path taking up a significant part of the old main line and a raft of properties being built at various stages across the line, due care and attention must be taken when planning the route for any new rail services. Existing communities have grown and new ones have emerged since the days of rail in the Banff & Buchan area; a way forward will need to be found that benefits all.

Peter Argyle, Lib Dem:

“Establishing a business case will not be easy, using the existing methodology. Clearly the service would need to be available and accessible to as many people as possible between Peterhead/Fraserburgh and Aberdeen but exactly which stations would depend on the route taken and the funding available. Further feasibility work, with input from CNER and other partners, would be needed.”

Craig Stewart, Green:

“We would like to see a reopening of the Formartine and Buchan Way railway line. On this route, we want stations in Newmachar, Pitmedden, Ellon, Cruden Bay, Peterhead and Fraserburgh. We believe this could work alongside active travel options, such as the existing cycle path. Public transport and active travel options can work together to protect our environment.”

Gwyneth Petrie, SNP:

“Opening the railway to Ellon would be a good first step, but continuing the line to Peterhead and Fraserburgh would create huge benefits for the north of Aberdeenshire, and those living there. These three towns are key, and further work would need to be undertaken in the planning stage to ascertain where stations were possible, and where there was a community wish to do so.”

Leigh Wilson, Alba:

“The ultimate goal should be linking all the towns, of course, but as an immediate priority the case for the two northern towns of Fraserburgh and Peterhead should be explored in greatest detail. This is vital both in terms of deliverability and in terms of economic impact.”

Mark Lappin, Labour:

“We would need to assess the details in delivery of such a project. Without knowing the details at this stage, launching business cases for each potential station looking not just at current potential use, but also who might benefit 40-50 years down the line. I hope that as many communities could benefit as possible.”

4. What would be the single most important benefit?

The Campaign For North East Rail’s proposals for north-east rail links.

James Adams, Conservative:

“The north-east has a distinct personality within Scotland that has fishing, farming and the energy industry at its heart. All these involve transit and getting people and goods from one place to the other, even just within the region. But our strategically important towns and villages can only be reached by road. Getting reliable, fast and low-carbon travel in place is so incredibly advantageous to our economy that I don’t understand why the Scottish Government hasn’t bothered to look at it.”

Peter Argyle, Lib Dem:

“Improving access to the north of Aberdeenshire for all while not only reducing dependence on travel by private car but also potentially taking freight off our roads; all of which would be an important part of our progress to net zero, meeting many of the ambitions in the Regional Transport Strategy.”

Craig Stewart, Green:

“We believe this proposal would significantly reduce pollution and help tackle climate change. There would also be increased opportunities for local businesses in these communities. In particular, from tourism and exporting of goods such as food and drink. All together, these benefits could greatly increase quality of life within Aberdeenshire.  ”

Gwyneth Petrie, SNP:

“The provision of a new public transport option for those living in the area, as well as those who want to visit or work there. This leads on to so many more benefits and opportunities for all.”

Leigh Wilson, Alba:

“To decarbonise effectively we need to have a behavioural shift from cars to sustainable models of public transport. The Scotrail franchise coming back into public ownership offers us a massive opportunity to invest properly in rail and we should be targeting investment in areas which have poor public transport links such as parts of Aberdeenshire. It’s time to make Scotrail the people’s rail service.”

Mark Lappin, Labour:

“The single most important benefit is simple: Low-cost connection to regional opportunities: jobs, shops, family and friends.”

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