Councillors give opinion on proposals for boost to North-east road and rail travel

Nestrans Chair Councillor Peter Argyle.

A RANGE of options to improve road and rail links to the north of Aberdeen have been unveiled – and politicians today welcomed the proposals.

Nestrans, the transport partnership between North-east organisations including Aberdeen city and Aberdeenshire councils, commissioned two reports to look at efficient ways of boosting travel routes over the next few years.

The road report considers the benefits of upgrading the A90 and the A952.

It includes proposals to build roundabouts at Toll of Birness and Cortes junctions, upgrades at other junctions and safety improvements.

The work could be delivered in phases, and cost £39 million, the report said.

The rail report looks at the costs, benefits and likely passenger numbers of running rail services between Aberdeen, Dyce and Ellon along the route of the former Formantine and Buchan Line.

AECOM, which wrote the report, has tabled three options to achieve this and they would cost between £270m and £381m and it predicts that passengers would make between 450,000 and 700,000 journeys per year.

Aberdeenshire Council deputy leader, councillor Peter Argyle, who is also the Nestrans board chairman, said: “What is clear from the reports is that the road study shows very clear benefits at a fairly modest cost and it is something that definitely needs to be pursued.

“The rail study is less clear. There are real benefits, but the cost-benefit ratio is low. However, more work needs to be done.

“Both the rail and road options are very much on the table – it’s not an ‘either or’ situation.”

Another Nestrans board member, cllr Martin Ford, said: “Both reports show what work needs to be done to take us to a point where a decision can be reached.

“Funding is only one factor and the levels of use, the benefits, accident prevention, environ-mental benefits – all of these things need to be taken into account, and they have been so far.”

Cllr Ford noted the figures on the estimated number of rail journeys on the Aberdeen to Ellon line and said: “The appraisals that have been done on other rail re-openings have consistently underestimated the number of passengers who will use it compared to the actual usage.

“The projected levels of use by people from Newmachar have been done on the basis of the population of Newmachar – 2,500 – but there are nearly another 1,000 people in Kingseat and there is park-and-ride potential for those people, so this is by no means the whole picture.

“We’ve got a very good study that has been done that includes the three most logical options for opening the railway.

“We have a piece of work that demonstrates that re-opening the railway is technically feasible, which is a plus.”

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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.

“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 new Borders railway have been eclipsed by the 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, and I hope that Nestrans Board consider this when making their decision.”

The Nestrans board considered the reports yesterday and will now wait for councillors from Aberdeen City and Aberdeenshire Councils to give their feedback before the board can make a decision on the next step.

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