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Transport scheme revealed for tunnels to islands and ‘rapid transit’ in Aberdeen

A bus-based rapid transport scheme is included within the latest strategic transport vision for Scotland.

Flagship transport plans could see islands connected with tunnels and a major new “rapid transit scheme” in Aberdeen.

The proposals are part of a far-reaching vision for key transport improvements across the country.

Transport Secretary Michael Matheson said his review commits to investigate the potential to build bridges or dig tunnels between Sounds of Harris and Barra, and between Mull and the Scottish mainland.

Other recommendations include carrying out enhancements to the Highland mainline and the Perth to Aberdeen rail corridors, to improve journey times and increase capacity and reliability for passenger and freight services.

‘Ambitious programme’

The SNP minister described the rapid bus transport scheme in Aberdeen as a “very ambitious programme going right out to Ellon”, which he claimed will be “transformative for the north-east”.

Michael Matheson MSP, cabinet secretary for net zero, energy and transport.

The published transport review says the project would “provide more competitive and efficient public transport into and around the Aberdeen city region”.

It would “prioritise buses and connect key destinations on the outskirts of Aberdeen to the city centre via busy radial corridors – including the A96, A944 and A956”.

Aberdeen Rapid Transit system

Last year, a new plan to “revolutionise” Aberdeen’s public transport system was unveiled. 

Transport chiefs in the city claimed the flagship project, dubbed the Aberdeen Rapid Transit (ART) system, would create “game-changing” public transport for the region.

It has been compared to a £90 million scheme already under way in Belfast.

An Aberdeen rapid transit service, similar to the Gliders in Belfast, could be brought to Aberdeen instead of trams.
Belfast Glider.

The Irish city’s rapid transport system uses futuristic Glider buses in dedicated lanes. 

The proposals for a similar north-east scheme were submitted to Mr Matheson for approval.

Howeer, Liam Kerr, north-east Conservative MSP, dismissed the SNP’s transport vision as little more than “warm words” for the north-east.

The Scottish Government committed £200m in 2016 to speed up journey times between the region and the central belt but this has yet to be spent.

Mr Kerr asked the transport secretary when these long-awaited improvements will be delivered.

But Mr Matheson said there has been a “challenge” over where to spend the cash.

He said: “That investment might not necessarily be on areas within Aberdeen directly in order to reduce journey times to Aberdeen.”

‘Clear shift’

However, north-east Green MSP Maggie Chapman was more optimistic about the plans put before parliament.

She said the publication marks a “clear shift in priorities from private, fossil fuel heavy transport to public transport and active travel”.

Green MSP Maggie Chapman.

She added: “The review proposes to deliver key transport projects across Scotland including the much-needed Aberdeen Rapid Transit system.

“The strategy gives us a much better direction of travel for future investment nationally.

“My constituents can be assured that I will continue to campaign for further local rail improvements.

“Specifically, the reopening of the Buchan Line to connect Ellon, Peterhead and Fraserburgh to our rail network.

“A feasibility study on this was an important plank of our cooperation agreement and I believe it is vital to the future prosperity of the north-east.”

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