Posted 5th September 2008 | 2 Comments

North-east Crossrail scheme ‘doomed’

First Minister Alex Salmond

PLANS to set up a £200million commuter transport system in the north-east appeared doomed last night after experts said the business case was weak and questioned potential demand.

First Minister Alex Salmond revealed that Transport Scotland had concerns about the Crossrail scheme and transport partnership Nestrans has been advised to focus on improving the existing rail infrastructure.

Opposition MSPs say the news reinforced their fears for the project, which would involve two new stations in Aberdeen serving the north and south and a service between Inverurie, Aberdeen and Stonehaven every 15 minutes.

Nestrans chairman Kevin Stewart said he believed the project, part of a £1billion transport strategy for the north-east, was feasible but admitted Transport Scotland was not convinced.

North East Conservative MSP Nanette Milne said last night it appeared from the tone of the letter she had received from Mr Salmond that the SNP Government was poised to perform a “spectacular U-turn”.

She said this would be a great pity because the project was “vital” in tackling traffic congestion in Aberdeen, particularly at the Haudagain roundabout.

Mr Salmond wrote: “Transport Scotland has had discussions with Nestrans regarding the emerging conclusions from their draft report relating to the Aberdeen Crossrail proposal.

“The initial findings from this study suggested that the business case for this project might be weak.

“It was therefore jointly agreed that Nestrans should focus on identifying the further passenger benefits that can be gained from the existing rail infrastructure.”

Mrs Milne added: “Local people increasingly feel that the SNP are making a spectacular U-turn which will see these plans and the Crossrail project shelved.

“It is now crucial that the first minister and the SNP government clear up the confusion they have caused surrounding the Aberdeen Crossrail proposal.”

Pivotal to the Crossrail scheme is the reopening of Laurencekirk station, but this has been has been delayed until early next year. Plans are also afoot to reopen Kintore station and Nestrans is funding a feasibility study.

Mr Stewart said: “Transport Scotland do not see there being the demand for the project but it may see it increasing when the timetabling of the trains between Stonehaven and Inverurie changes in December.

“We will judge what happens when Laurencekirk opens in the new year.”

A spokesman for Mr Salmond said: “Obviously we want proposals to be as strong as possible to maximise their chances of success when they advance beyond a draft and come forward in final form for consideration by ministers.

Reader Comments:

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  • Roddy MacKenzie, Sale, UK

    I look forward to this, but will invest in a strong unbrella due to the problems with porcine formation aerobatics.

    I truly wish the team every bit of good luck: when I visit my parents in Stonehaven, I hate the long wait in the tiny waiting room for the often delayed and/or overcrowded train to turn up from Edinburgh, Glasgow or wherever. Heading back seems worse with the waiting area being the vast windswept concourse at Guild Street, complete with slippery floors in wet or snowy conditions.

    Each visit reminds me how lucky I am with Greater Manchester's Metrolink (More so when Metrolink is actually running its full service on the full network.)

    I am old enough to fondly remember the morning commuter service from Stonehaven's now long defunct platform 3 via Portlethen and Netwonhill. Maybe we will see something like that in my parents' lifetimes (they are only in their 80's)

    I have also read rumours of the Banchory link being re-opened. Definitely a date for the Jorunal of Porcine Aviation and Aerobatics. Maybe Holyrood's new taxation will pay for something useful outside the Forth & Clyde belt? Nah, nae chance!

  • Chris Bee, Cardiff, UK

    Are these the same "experts" who spectacularly underestimated the passenger demand on the new Glasgow-Stirling-Alloa route?