Toon officially way off track

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The opening of a new Borders Railway means that Peterhead now has the dubious distinction of being furthest away from a railway line for a town of its size.

The Borders Railway line launched last weekend with the Queen opening the line on Saturday, September 5.

It is the longest new domestic line constructed in a century, and will run from Shawfair to Tweedbank.

It will pass through Galashiels and Hawick, which until now were further away than the Blue Toon from train services.

Railway author David Spaven, who argued against the closure of the by-then frieght-only Fraserburgh line in 1979, said: “After the 1969 closure of the Waverley Route through the Borders, Harrick and Galashiels had the unwanted status of being more distant form the rail network than any other towns of their size in Britian.

“The opening of the Borders Railway means,this dubious accolade has shifted to Peterhead and Fraserburgh.

“This highlights the injustice of axing the Buchan line and the importance of getting an often forgotten part of the world back on the railway map.”

Mr Spaven, author of Waverley Route: the battle for the Borders Railway, called on the local authority to take action.

He said: “I hope the unwelcome news about the Buchan town’s national isolation will spur on Aberdeenshire Council and local campaigners in their efforts to make a case for restoring at least part of the regional rail network.

However, it is not all doom-and-gloom for the North East. It emerged last week that the number of people using the Laurencekirk Railway Station was two-and-a-half times more than forecast.

Travel statistics show that some 92,470 passengers used the new station at Laurencekirk in 2012/13. When building the business case for re-opening the station, which was closed as part of the Beeching cuts, it was thought 36,000 passengers annually would be a realistic figure.

Now, councillors campaigning for a rail link to Buchan have said the Laurencekirk figures prove that there is a demand for rail links in the North-east and that if the service is provided, people will use it.

Peterhead South & Cruden SNP councillor Stephen Smith said: “This is great news for those who worked so long to secure the re-opening of Laurencekirk Station and vindicates their efforts.

“It is clear evidence that if the North-east public are given the opportunity to travel by rail to and from their own locality, they will seize that opportunity.

Ellon & District SNP councillor Rob Merson agreed, stating: “I’m delighted to hear that Laurencekirk Station has been so successful in the short time it has been open.

“I strongly believe there is a demand for a rail link to serve the Buchan area.

“Not only would this be transformational in terms of giving the area improved connections to the rest of the country but it would remove vehicles from our roads, be good for the environment, and enable swifter journey times to the city.”