Ambitious plans for a £70 million rail link between Aberdeen International Airport and the new AECC have hit a setback.
City council bosses unveiled their multi-million-pound vision two years ago to create a track between the airport and the new £333m TECA (The Event Complex Aberdeen) at Bucksburn.
But transport consultants hired to develop rail options for the region have cast doubt on building the new “rail spur” on land belonging to TECA, arguing it is “unlikely” an airport connecting line would be suitable and that it could impact on neighbouring homes.
Their findings, which will be presented in a report to members of regional transport partnership Nestrans, state: “The masterplan which enabled the construction of the new exhibition centre identifies land by safeguarding an area to provide a connection to the arena and onward to the airport.
“However, for a new passenger track, a minimum radius of 400m would be necessary which would impact on several residential properties, could necessitate operational restrictions on the main line and would only allow for trains to access the rail connection from the south.”
The consultants conclude: “It is unlikely that an airport connecting line in the corridor as identified from current plans would be suitable.”
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The consultants have been asked to provide further information, including how much the proposed rail link would cost and any physical restrictions, such as steep slopes, to give a “fuller picture”.
They have also been asked to consider whether an alternative of developing a new station on the main line, closer to the TECA site, would be a “better proposition”.
Nestrans director Derick Murray said: “They’re saying it’s unlikely they would be able to do it in the boundary of the AECC but if you had a bit more land you might be able to do something.
“All of these things are still being looked at and nothing is being ruled out at this stage.
“I wouldn’t say it’s the end of it,” he added.
It was previously understood the scheme would cost around £70m.
Travelling to the airport by rail from either north or south currently involves getting off at Dyce Station and completing the journey by bus.
Ross Grant, the council’s transport spokesman, said: “It is obvious from the report the land is available to build a rail link, and while the consultants have said it is unlikely that an airport connecting line in the corridor as identified from current plans would be suitable, this does not mean that further clarifications on other alternatives and costings should not be looked at.
“The administration recognises the frustration that the travelling public have in and around Dyce airport and the TECA.
“I look forward to Nestrans working out actual costings so that we can work with the Scottish Government, Network Rail and others to deliver modern facilities suited to the 21st Century.”
An Aberdeen International Airport spokeswoman said they would welcome “any improvements” to how people travel to and from the airport.
She added: “We will closely monitor any developments regarding the rail link proposals.”
The SNP group’s operations spokeswoman Jackie Dunbar said: “I’m entirely unsurprised to hear that this is unlikely to happen due to development constraints and that’s before we even get talking about how much this might cost.”
The council also had aspirations to open additional stations between Aberdeen and Dyce with Bucksburn and Kittybrewster being mooted.
However, consultants have said none of the nine stations which previously existed on this section of route comply with “modern standards”.