Anger at lack of rail expansion in North East Scotland
The funding documents for investment in the next five years are a deep disappointment for rail freight and passenger ambitions in the north-east of Scotland. That’s the view of Member of the Scottish Parliament (MSP) Douglas Lumsden, who represents the North East Scotland region and sits on the opposition benches, with the Conservative Party. The government in Edinburgh has overlooked any mention of answering the lobby for new railways north of Aberdeen, reconnecting the fishing ports of Peterhead and Fraserburgh with the rail network.
The north-east of Scotland can expect no railway development of the scale experienced in the Scottish Borders, nor the game changing economic advantages expected in the north-east of Fife or north-east England. There is no provision for building new railways into the north-east of Scotland. The second Strategic Transport Projects Review (STPR2), the top level planning document from the Scottish Government, omits the ambitions of campaigners in the region, and dashes hopes for an expanded rail network in the region.
The potential for freight
The Campaign for North East Rail (CNER) has been lobbying for the reinstatement of railway lines north of Aberdeen, connecting intermediate communities and the fishing ports of Peterhead and Fraserburgh – both of which towns lost their rail services in the nationalisation plans of the 1960s. They also propose the reinstatement of a line west from Aberdeen – along the prime commuter belt known as Royal Deeside – where several small towns feed into Aberdeen along a single road corridor.
The CNER say that a network of lines, crossing through Aberdeen, would prove a significant boost to the regional economy. The project would also help to answer the Scottish government ambition for a net-zero economy by 2045. The potential for freight is also part of their plan, noting the relative remoteness of the region, and the growth of light logistics to add to traditional traffic, such as agricultural produce and marine harvest (Peterhead remains the biggest fishing port in the UK).
Upgrades the north-east needs
Speaking to local media, Lumsden said that an opportunity had been missed. “This review was a great opportunity for the Scottish Government to get behind the transport infrastructure upgrades the north-east needs”, he said to Aberdeen Live. “It’s also a necessity if we’re going to reduce reliance on cars. It seems the sop has been a mass transit system into Aberdeen, not by helping people move towards public transport. The study for the line hasn’t even happened but the strategy has junked it.”
Campaigners are still pursuing their aims, and seeking to fund their own feasibility study into the project. However, the news also comes on the heels of an announcement from the Scottish Government and UK Government that the North East Scotland Green Freeport (NESGF) bid was unsuccessful. The bid area included Aberdeen, Peterhead and Fraserburgh.
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