A key rail route in in the north of Scotland is in line for a £170 million improvement package, which will cut journey times for travellers.
The Scottish Government is funding the upgrading work on the Aberdeen to Inverness line.
As well as speeding up the travel time between the cities, trains will run more frequently and a new station will be build at Forres.
Signalling systems will be enhanced and the platforms, Insch and Elgin stations will be extended to cope with longer trains, while Dalcross and Kintore will benefit from initial infrastructure work that will allow new stations to be built there at a later date.
BAM, the company which recently completed the new Borders rail line, has been made the principal contractor for the project.
Infrastructure Secretary Keith Brown said: “I am pleased to witness the award of the contract to BAM for the first phase of the Aberdeen to Inverness Improvement Project.
“Today marks the Scottish Government’s landmark investment package of £170 million to improve a key route connecting both northern cities, which will make journeys shorter, more frequent and more comfortable for those who use this important line regularly.
“This project is especially valuable for the region for, as well as the clear benefits to passengers and freight users, it will also support jobs and growth, providing an economic boost to the cities and communities along the entire length of the route.”
Phil Verster, managing director of the ScotRail Alliance, said: “BAM’s appointment is the first step on a journey that will deliver significant benefits for the North and North East of Scotland.
“Reduced journey times and the ability to run bigger trains with more seats will transform customers’ experience of rail travel.
“This is what the ScotRail Alliance is all about; connecting people with jobs, businesses with customers, and giving communities across Scotland the opportunity to grow and prosper.”
Jerry Dickson, operations director for BAM, said: “We are looking forward to commencing work on the Aberdeen to Inverness Enhancement Programme. This essential programme of works will improve connectivity between the major cities of Aberdeen and Inverness, with wider enhancements for the local communities in the north of Scotland.”
Initial site survey work is already under way, with the main construction phase due to begin in the spring of next year.