Councillors have called for a radical upgrade of the north-east’s transport network in a bid to kick-start the region’s local economy.
A regional transport strategy (RTS) was presented to Aberdeenshire Council’s Buchan area committee by Nestrans, the north-east’s transport partnership.
The RTS is a long-term strategic document which sets out the direction for potential new infrastructure in the north-east over the next two decades.
The latest proposed strategy, covering up to 2040, has a focus on maintaining and extending existing infrastructure.
It proposes introducing “safety and reliability enhancements” on a number of key routes to Peterhead and Fraserburgh, as well as dualling the A90 to Toll of Birness.
But councillors at the meeting said the proposed changes do not go far enough, and called for significant upgrades to be made to the region’s road network.
Councillor Jim Ingram said: “I hope our weight can be thrown behind this and we can do as much as we can to put pressure on Transport Scotland, via Nestrans and our own council, with a view to getting the extension to the AWPR, the A90 towards Peterhead and the A952.
“It’s an area for which it’s really important to have good connections for its economic wellbeing, which is under challenge at present and needs all the support it can get.”
I often joke that if the Victorians were to visit Peterhead, they would recognise the transport infrastructure we still depend on.”
Councillor Alan Fakely
Councillor Alan Fakely added: “I am really disappointed the only things the northern ports can expect over the next 20 years are some safety and reliability enhancements north of Toll of Birness. It would be vital to the growth, economy, resilience and tourism of the northern ports which depend on 21st-century infrastructure.
“I often joke that if the Victorians were to visit Peterhead, they would recognise the transport infrastructure we still depend on.
“In terms of the projected growth of the towns, as well as being the largest fishing ports in the whole of the UK, the north-east is also at the forefront of new energy.
“Decent infrastructure is required to support these projects, attract visitors and protect industries and the jobs which in turn will improve the life chances of all our residents.
“I strongly feel the road infrastructure north of Toll of Birness has to be brought up to 21st Century standards.”
We need to improve the A90 towards Peterhead.”
Councillor Stephen Smith
Councillor Stephen Smith said: “One could argue a safety and reliability enhancement to Peterhead and Fraserburgh doesn’t rule out a dual carriageway but I would like to see a stronger form of words in there to include that.
“The dual carriageway, when it comes, will probably have to be done in stages and Toll of Birness is the logical endpoint for the next phase of work. The emphasis there would have to be on it being a phase and not the be-all and end-all. We need to improve the A90 towards Peterhead.”
The prospect of future rail travel in the region was also discussed at the meeting – and members of the committee urged transport authorities to consider creating new links in the area.
It’s absolutely appalling that Peterhead is the biggest town in Scotland without a railway.”
Councillor Anne Simpson
Councillor Anne Simpson said: “It’s absolutely appalling that Peterhead is the biggest town in Scotland without a railway, and if they can look at putting in railway connections in the Borders and between Alloa and Stirling, I can’t see why we can’t look at doing the same from Aberdeen to Ellon and possibly Peterhead.”
Options for upgrading the transport network are already being considered as part of the Strategic Transport Appraisal, which falls under the Aberdeen City Region Deal.
There are a range of potential improvements being considered for the Buchan area in a bid to safeguard the local economy, with a focus on the A90 as the main trunk road in the region.
A spokesman for Transport Scotland said: “We recognise the important role that Scotland’s transport system plays in connecting people to jobs and services and businesses to markets. The AWPR, which now links Stonehaven with Ellon, was an ambitious and significant undertaking and is delivering real benefits for people across the north-east.
“Regional partners are continuing to work with us to consider the operation of the A90 and the wider transport corridor between Aberdeen, Peterhead and Fraserburgh.
“The longer-term consideration of transport improvements north of Aberdeen is being taken forward in the context of the ongoing Strategic Transport Appraisal, part of the Aberdeen City Region Deal, and through the second Strategic Transport Projects Review (STPR2).
“Appropriate local and regional engagement will continue throughout the appraisal process.”
The north-east is also set to benefit from millions of pounds of future investment to bring the rail and road networks up to scratch.
The spokesman added: “In addition to the Scottish Government’s £125 million contributions to the Aberdeen City Region Deal funding was announced for transport improvements to facilitate a more significant step-change to the economy of the north-east.
“This includes an additional initial £200 million to help improve journey times and increase capacity on key rail links between Aberdeen and the central belt and £24 million of funding for the trunk roads programme to support improvements to the key A90/A937 south junction at Laurencekirk.
“We are continuing to progress these projects and have been liaising with Aberdeen City Region Deal Partners as we do so.
“The Local Rail Development Fund provides funding for organisations to carry out an appraisal which could potentially bring forward proposals for improvements to rail connections in their area.
“Nestrans has received funding for Insch Station accessibility and cross Aberdeen rail travel. If the completed appraisals provide robust business cases for progressing rail options, we will consider the projects for potential further funding or support.”
Nestrans chairwoman Sandra Macdonald said the organisation was exploring a number of possibilities – but admitted some projects would be unlikely to receive funding.
She said: “We are just over halfway through our 10-week consultation on the draft RTS. I am pleased that there are so many ongoing discussions as part of that and welcome Buchan Area Committee’s input. As we’ve worked with stakeholders to develop the RTS to date, the key thing we have kept in mind is being ‘ambitions but achievable’.
“We know that the package of schemes we are proposing are most likely to have positive business cases and therefore be able to attract the funding to enable us to deliver them. There are some schemes, no matter how popular or ‘nice to have’, that are unfortunately unlikely to meet Transport Scotland’s appraisal guidance within the timescale of the strategy.
“The Nestrans-led Fraserburgh and Peterhead to Aberdeen Strategic Transport Study (FPASTS) played a key part in shaping what we are proposing for the area.
“In regards to the A90(N) and A952 we want to address key issues around safety, capacity and reliability. In the RTS our initial focus is on the southern end of the A90 corridor.
“This includes prioritising the dualling of the Ellon bypass to Toll of Birness (including upgrades to roundabouts), as well as targeted safety improvements to the A952, and a roundabout at Cortes junction.
“We are confident that these measures would have a strong business case to gain funding support from Transport Scotland, reasonably quickly, and will make a significant impact.
“There has been a long-term desire locally for a re-introduction of a rail link between Dyce and Ellon, and beyond, and we have carried out detailed studies on this as part of the area’s strategic transport study. Despite the desirability of the proposal, the financial business case would not meet current Scottish Transport Appraisal Guidance, meaning we would be quite unlikely to be able to secure funding for the project at this time.”
Network Rail was contacted for comment.