Ellon & District SNP Councillor Rob Merson, who has campaigned for the reopening of the Formartine/Buchan rail link since he became a councillor in 2007, addressed a meeting of Nestrans in Aberdeen Town House on Tuesday, April 19.
Cllr. Merson opened by welcoming the introductory comments of Nestrans Director, Derrick Murray, that it would most likely require a mix of the solutions proposed to address transport issues in the corridor.
He went on to say that some sectors of the Press had described the Report as a ‘Road versus Rail’ issue – and that was not the case.
However, he pointed out that dualling the A90 north of the Toll of Birness looked unlikely other than on safety grounds, as the volume of traffic did not meet the necessary criteria.
He observed that a journey from Ellon to Aberdeen which took 30 minutes one day could take over an hour the next, for no apparent reason.
He pointed out that comparisons in the Report between road and rail journey times were meaningless for that reason, and that bus operators shared those problems, which is why it was at times impossible to adhere to timetables.
He stressed that the re-introduction of a rail link would take more vehicles off the road, reduce city centre emissions and allow commuters to plan their journeys more reliably.
Turning to the question of the options presented in the Report for any possible rail link – that of using the existing rail link between Aberdeen and Fraserburgh, or a more direct line between Aberdeen and Peterhead via the Bridge of Don, Cllr. Merson suggested that a mix of the two might present the optimum route.
He expressed the view that there was considerable benefit to be derived from using the existing line between Dyce and Ellon in that Dyce was a major business centre with many employees from Formartine and Buchan, and that a rail link to the airport was to be welcomed.
He also pointed out that it meant that yet another Don crossing could be avoided, with all the attendant expense.
Beyond Ellon, he mooted, would probably benefit from a more direct route north, perhaps using sections of the old branch line to Cruden Bay.
On discussing the Report thereafter, several members made reference to Cllr. Merson’s observations and expressed their agreement.
Commenting after the meeting, Cllr. Merson said: “I was very grateful for the opportunity to address the Board, and was delighted that so many of the members seemed to agree with the points which I made.
“It was also very helpful that, by pure coincidence, a previous item on the agenda had been a presentation on improvements to the Aberdeen to Inverness rail line, by Stacey Lynch of Network Rail and Scott Prentice of Abellio Scotrail, which made mention of the huge public enthusiasm for, and increasing popularity of rail travel – and observed that the passenger figures had exceeded all expectation or estimates.”