Three detailed options for a reopened rail service between Aberdeen, Dyce and Ellon have been discussed by local politicians and members of the Nestrans Board.
At the meeting, held on Friday, November 3, Nestrans Board members, MPs and MSPs received presentations from the two consultant teams who had been tasked with investigating detailed road and rail options for the Fraserburgh and Peterhead to Aberdeen Strategic Transport Study (FPASTS).
The ongoing ‘all-modes’ study investigates strategic transport issues for improving transport links along the 50- mile stretch from Peterhead and Fraserburgh to Aberdeen and Dyce, incorporating the Energetica corridor.
Commissioned by Nestrans as part of a commitment from their Regional Transport Strategy Refresh in January 2014, the comprehensive study has now reached a critical stage whereby Board members will soon take a decision on which option(s) to take forward to a business case stage.
The rail report, undertaken by AECOM, produces the findings of a feasibility study looking at the costs, benefits and likely patronage for a reopened rail service between Aberdeen, Dyce and Ellon, along an alignment loosely based on the former Formartine and Buchan line.
Three options costing between £270million and £381million were assessed and forecasts indicate a new rail service could attract between 450,000 and 700,000 journeys per year.
The road report, undertaken by Systra, gives a more detailed appraisal of prospective road upgrades on the A90 and A952, providing indicative schemes, costs and benefits.
A package of measures, including new roundabouts at Toll of Birness and Cortes junctions, upgrades at other junctions, safety improvements and overtaking opportunities as well as partial dualling of the route could be delivered in phases, totalling £39million.
Nestrans Chair, Councillor Peter Argyle said: “The study shows that whilst reinstating a rail line between Aberdeen, Dyce and Ellon would be materially feasible, popular amongst travellers, environmentally beneficial through reducing emissions and would bring benefits to the area, it also finds that, at this moment in time, it is significantly more expensive and would require ongoing subsidy.
“Both reports present us with some very detailed analysis into the opportunities and give us a much clearer and informed position on the feasibility and merits of both options.”
Aberdeenshire East MSP Gillian Martin said: “This study provides us with a real opportunity to improve public transport links in my constituency, easing congestion on the roads and reducing our carbon footprint.
“The cost/benefit analysis done for the project does not take into account the economic benefits that the reinstated railway would have for Ellon as a commercial town, and this should be investigated as it is an important consideration.
“The option of a Park and Ride facility at Newmachar would also ensure that those living in the many surrounding towns and villages could also enjoy a partial-rail commute, thereby reducing inner-city congestion.
“Given that Aberdeen city centre is one of the future Low Emission Zones, we must be acting where we can to minimise commuter traffic and provide alternatives.”
“The study options all also ensure that the cycle path and walkways are maintained, making it much easier for those living in the area to choose to travel greener. The North East corner needs greener travel options, just like those that the rest of the country enjoys.
“The forecasts for usage of the Borders railway have been eclipsed by actual use, and I think that the same would happen for this railway line.
“This is a great opportunity to provide an alternative to private car use to the people of the North East.”
Ellon & District councillor and founder of the ‘Why Stop at Ellon?’ campaign, Gillian Owen, said: “The plans to make changes to the notorious Toll of Birness junction are crucial and these must be a priority, and while I believe that ultimately we should dual the whole way between Peterhead and Fraserburgh I am conscience of what resources will be available.
“Whilst it will be a great benefit to residents the cost involved makes it an expensive project as it will only extend to Ellon.
“The AWPR will be open next year and the links to Dyce will be significantly improved by the new road, we really should be looking at extending the dualling so that it will benefit the economy of the whole of the North East and that means all the way to Fraserburgh. With the right infrastructure this will become a boom area and I believe we need to have the imagination to carry this through.”
Nestrans will now consult with Aberdeen City and Aberdeenshire councils.