New rail links would bring 'huge' benefits to Buchan

Russell Borthwick (AGCC), Craig Leuchars (CNER) and Jordan Jack (CNER) (Pic:AGCC)Russell Borthwick (AGCC), Craig Leuchars (CNER) and Jordan Jack (CNER) (Pic:AGCC)
Russell Borthwick (AGCC), Craig Leuchars (CNER) and Jordan Jack (CNER) (Pic:AGCC)
A new rail link connecting Aberdeen to Fraserburgh via Peterhead would deliver a north east economic boom and reduce fatal accidents on one of Scotland’s deadliest roads, a key study has found.

The findings come hot on the heels of the opening of the Levenmouth rail link, following a multi-million-pound Scottish Government investment – leaving Peterhead and Fraserburgh as the two largest towns in the UK furthest from the rail network.

Commissioned by the Campaign for North East Rail (CNER) and the Aberdeen and Grampian Chamber of Commerce (AGCC), the report also found the link could support the just transition and new jobs.

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The Buchan Sustainable Transport Study sets out options for a new rail line which would help address economic inequality in the region’s most deprived communities in Peterhead and Fraserburgh with business leaders backing the proposal to extend the East Coast line to both towns.

Through data analysis and surveys with hundreds of residents, the report produced evidence of stifled investment and job opportunities, alongside reduced access to healthcare, due to limited public transport and unreliable commuting times.

The link could significantly improve economic fortunes, according to the report, increasing the labour market for the region by 65 per cent.

Similarly, the line would open up a 40 per cent increase in job opportunities elsewhere for residents of Fraserburgh, Peterhead and their surrounds.

Currently, commuters to Aberdeen need to use the A90 (N) / A952, statistically one of the deadliest single carriageways in Scotland. The report found that opening the new link could reduce 75% of serious or fatal accidents on the road and support Scottish Government goals to prevent these outright by 2050.

The preferred line would support the region’s wider economic strategy by facilitating opportunities in net zero as well as decarbonising transport in the shift from road to rail.

It would include the option for a freight link to St Fergus providing transport to the multi-billion-pound Acorn carbon capture and storage (CCS) and hydrogen development at St Fergus, while the wider line could connect workers to renewable energy opportunities centred around ports and harbours across the region.

Buchan’s existing long-term industries such as food, drink and tourism would also benefit, with fishing and seafood processing key sectors in Fraserburgh and Peterhead.

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The preferred option consists of a new passenger and freight rail line created between Aberdeen city centre and Fraserburgh via Peterhead, including a mix of reinstated track and new alignment.

It would serve passengers with stops at Dyce, Newmachar, Ellon, Cruden Bay, alongside options for two freight spurs at St Fergus and Peterhead, and potential for new alignment to be created for a stop at Pitmedden.

The cost of the project would be determined through a follow-up detailed options appraisal, which campaigners are now calling on government to bring forward.

Funded through the Scottish Government Just Transition Fund, the Buchan Sustainable Transport Study was carried out by infrastructure and professional services consultancies AECOM and Stantec for CNER and AGCC.

Karen Adam, Member of the Scottish Parliament for Banffshire and Buchan Coast, said: "Rerailing the North East will save lives and pave the way for more prosperous livelihoods. From CCUS projects to wind farms, the North East is leading Scotland's efforts towards net zero. However, the A90 northbound is statistically one of the deadliest roads in Scotland with HGV levels on roads consistently high every hour of every day of the working week.

"Reconnecting Fraserburgh and Peterhead to the railway would allow many of these HGV movements to be transferred to the rails, resulting in cleaner air, fewer emissions, safer roads and further economic growth opportunities.

"The Buchan Sustainable Transport Study has found that rerailing Fraserburgh and Peterhead could reduce 75% of serious or fatal accidents on the road and support Scottish Government goals to prevent these outright by 2050.

"As a supporter of the Campaign for North East Rail since the beginning, I have long raved about the economic, educational, health and social benefits of this campaign in the Scottish Parliament and will continue my calls to bring back rail to the North East and reconnect our coast."

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Jordan Jack, General Secretary of CNER, said: "This study has shown us that extending the East Coast Line northwards and maintaining the Formartine and Buchan Way as a cycle path is feasible and would be transformative for North-east Scotland.

“Evidence from this report underlines what locals live and experience every day: poor transport links are stifling our potential, damaging access to healthcare, and limiting job opportunities in the region.

“As this report attests, Fraserburgh and Peterhead are among the most deprived settlements in Aberdeenshire, and reconnection to the rail network will drastically improve people's economic fortunes, health outcomes, education and social inclusion."

Russell Borthwick, Chief Executive of the Aberdeen and Grampian Chamber of Commerce, said: “This report shows the scale of what’s possible – and as we’ve seen recently with Levenmouth and right here in the North-east with the AWPR, this vision can become a reality with the political will to make it happen.

“This link could reverse economic inequality and deliver a boost to Buchan, turbocharging its net zero, food and drink and tourism offerings. In addition, it could drastically reduce emissions from passenger and freight transport.

“I urge all key decisionmakers and political representatives to get behind this vast opportunity for our region.”

Further information about the Campaign for North East Rail is available here