Nestrans studies identify effective improvements to transport links north of Aberdeen

Lucy Johnston 2017

Politicians from across the north east have met today (Friday, 3rd November) to hear the findings of two reports which look at improving transport links north of Aberdeen.

Members of the Nestrans Board, MPs and MSPs received presentations from the two consultant teams who had been tasked with investigating detailed road and rail options for the Fraserburgh and Peterhead to Aberdeen Strategic Transport Study (FPASTS). The ongoing ‘all-modes’ study investigates strategic transport issues for improving transport links along the 50 mile stretch from Peterhead and Fraserburgh to Aberdeen and Dyce, incorporating the Energetica corridor.

Commissioned by Nestrans as part of a commitment from their Regional Transport Strategy Refresh in January 2014, the comprehensive study has now reached a critical stage whereby Board members will soon take a decision on which option(s) to take forward to a business case stage.

The study, which is being undertaken in line with best practice Scottish Transport Appraisal Guidance (STAG), has already progressed through a number of prior stages, including a series of public consultations with stakeholders, businesses and communities to help shape the options generated by the study so far.

Whilst the previous STAG 1 report presented a range of road, rail and bus opportunities, following its presentation at Nestrans Board meeting in September last year, members agreed that further detail was required on the road and rail aspects, before making a decision on which option(s) to progress.

The two new reports, published today, look at detailed options, costings and usage studies for the Road and Rail options;

The rail report, undertaken by AECOM, produces the findings of a feasibility study looking at the costs, benefits and likely patronage for a reopened rail service between Aberdeen, Dyce and Ellon, along an alignment loosely based on the former Formartine and Buchan line. Three options costing between £270million and £381million were assessed and forecasts indicate a new rail service could attract between 450,000 and 700,000 journeys per year.

The road report, undertaken by Systra, gives a more detailed appraisal of prospective road upgrades on the A90 and A952, providing indicative schemes, costs and benefits. A package of measures, including new roundabouts at Toll of Birness and Cortes junctions, upgrades at other junctions, safety improvements and overtaking opportunities as well as partial dualling of the route could be delivered in phases, totalling £39million.

Nestrans Chair, Councillor Peter Argyle said, “We have had a very valuable and interesting morning hearing presentations and discussing the findings with the two sets of consultants leading on the reports.

“What we can see in the road report is that if we can obtain what we see as a fairly modest investment from Transport Scotland, we could deliver new infrastructure that would deliver benefits to travel in the North-east. With a phased delivery of investments to the A90 and surrounding roads, we would see a series of road measures to improve safety for road users, reduced journey times, improved journey time reliability, but with little impact on emissions outputs.

“The findings from the rail report are not as clear cut; the study shows that whilst reinstating a rail line between Aberdeen, Dyce and Ellon would be materially feasible, popular amongst travellers, environmentally beneficial through reducing emissions and would bring benefits to the area, it also finds that, at this moment in time, it is significantly more expensive and would require ongoing subsidy.

“Both reports present us with some very detailed analysis into the opportunities and give us a much clearer and informed position on the feasibility and merits of both options.”

Nestrans will now consult with both Aberdeen City and Aberdeenshire Councils, before bringing the study back to the Nestrans board early next year when they will make a decision to proceed either one or both options to a STAG Part 2 study, which would look to outline a business case and identify a preferred option which demonstrably optimises value for money.