New figures showing significant growth in train passenger numbers across the North-east of Scotland underline the need for greater investment in the region’s rail infrastructure, according to the region’s transport partnership Nestrans.
Rail station use in the region has increased by 78% between 2004/05 and 2011/12 compared to a Scotland-wide increase of 51% for the same period, according to figures published by the Office of the Rail Regulator.
The strongest growth has been achieved at stations north of Aberdeen with Dyce recording a 151% increase since 2004/05 and Inverurie a 216% increase in passenger numbers. Stations south of Aberdeen have also recorded growth ahead of the Scottish average with numbers at Portlethen up by 77% and Stonehaven/Laurencekirk by 62%. Use of Aberdeen station grew by 64%.
The figures show that despite the region having almost 9% of Scotland’s total population it still accounts for less than 3% of the country’s rail station passengers, suggesting that there are constraints on passenger uptake. Despite the growth in passenger numbers and demonstrable propensity to travel by rail in the North-east, the region receives only a fraction of the rail investment made in Scotland as a whole with subsidy currently running to approximately £750 million a year.
Nestrans is currently progressing a number of projects to enhance rail services in the region, including plans for a new station at Kintore as part of the Aberdeen to Inverness rail improvement scheme to reduce journey time and improve frequency.
Derick Murray, director of Nestrans, said: “The cumulative growth in rail passenger numbers in the North-east since 2004 is impressive and where we have been able to make investment in the rail network it has paid considerable dividends. In the past year alone, more than five million passengers used stations across the region, compared to fewer than three million a year in 2004.
“However, when we look at the region’s population as a whole it is travelling less by train than would be expected and in overall terms we receive only a tiny proportion of rail investment in Scotland. Prioritising rail spend in the North-east, based on the successes to date, could bring significant additional benefits to the region by reducing the need for car journeys and shifting us towards a properly integrated transport network that would support our economic development and quality of life aspirations,” said Mr Murray.