Buchan Rail Link protection welcomed by councillors

The former Formartine-Buchan railway line
The former Formartine-Buchan railway line

Peterhead South & Cruden councillor Stephen Smith and Ellon & District councillor Rob Merson have welcomed a decision by the Directorate of Planning and Environmental Appeals to extend the protection of all sections of the former railway line that fall within the settlement boundary of Ellon.

The site of the former railway station in Ellon has already been granted protected status in the 2012 Local Development Plan following a proposal tabled by Cllr Merson in 2010.

This latest move by the Reporter in the 2017 Local Development Plan sees that protection further extended to facilitate the possible re-opening of a rail link to Buchan in the future.

The two councillors, who have campaigned for the reopening of the Formartine/Buchan rail link since being elected in 2007, recently convened a meeting with Scottish Transport Minister, Humza Yousaf and SNP MSPs, Stewart Stevenson and Gillian Martin.

At the meeting, the two councillors stressed the need for further improvements to the transport infrastructure of North Aberdeenshire following completion of the AWPR and dualling of the Balmedie-Tipperty section of the A90.

Cllrs Smith and Merson told the Minister that they supported the multi-modal transport survey being conducted Transport Scotland and Nestrans to assess the relative merits of a variety of forms of transport in North Aberdeenshire, from walking and cycling to the potential reintroduction of rail travel.

The Minister very much welcomed the representations being made by the elected members, and agreed that now was the right time to be asking those questions as the Scottish Government was looking towards future transport projects.

Cllr Smith said: “I believe that improving the transport infrastructure in North Aberdeenshire will most likely require a mix of solutions, and I am disappointed that some sectors of the Press had described the Report as a ‘Road versus Rail’ issue – which is not the case.

“While the former Formartine-Buchan railway line may not be the optimum route for a modern rail link in its entirety - much of it could be.

“What we need to do is to identify what that route should be, and where rail stations should be – we need a red line on the map.”

Cllr Merson added: “I expressed the view at a joint meeting between Nestrans and Aberdeen City & Shire Strategic Development Authority some time ago that such a proposal was an ideal project to be brought forward under the City Region Deal.

“I was delighted to receive support across the room from both Aberdeenshire and Aberdeen City councillors, who recognised that such a rail link could substantially reduce road traffic into Aberdeen, town centre congestion and emissions.

“The failure to grasp the future demand for rail travel is perhaps even more short-sighted than Dr. Beeching’s decision to decimate it.

“I am therefore profoundly disappointed that the local Conservative councillor should have chosen to campaign against the proposal.”