Call to use cash to reopen forgotten Angus railway lines.
Local councillor calls for study looking at return of train links to Forfar and Brechin to boost economy and infrastructure, using Tay Cities Deal cash
Tay Cities Deal cash should be used to investigate reopening forgotten Angus railway lines to increase jobs and growth, a councillor has said.
Forfar Conservative Braden Davy believes a return of rail to Forfar and Brechin, which lost their lines in the 1950s and 1960s, would boost the economy across Angus.
The UK Government has announced a £26.5 million “Angus fund” as part of the city region deal, to support infrastructure innovation in the county.
Mr Davy said a small amount of money would go a long way to closing the productivity gap between Angus and the Scottish average.
He said: “Any move to reintroduce rail to inland Angus would cost a lot of money but look at the Borders railway. It’s time to think big.
“Maybe this won’t be feasible but the only way to find out is by looking into to it fully; people previously said the Borders Railway wasn’t possible.
“The Scottish Government has shown it’s willing to spend £353 million on that project because a great case was made for its long-term economic benefits.
“Even a positive report from the feasibility study alone would give us all something to aim for, a realistic expectation of what could be achieved and how much it would cost.
“Rail travel is only getting more popular while bus services are getting harder and harder to find.”
Brechin closed for passenger traffic during the early 1950s but remained open to freight traffic until 1981.
The Stanley-kinnaber junction line, near Montrose, closed in 1967 after Dr Richard Beeching published the second of his two reports that would change Britain’s railway system forever.
When the 46-mile line closed, more than two-thirds of it was initially retained. The 26 miles from Stanley to Forfar and the five miles from Kinnaber to Bridge of Dun and on to Brechin were both still in use into the 1980s.
Forfar eventually lost its sparse freight traffic in 1982, Brechin having done so a year earlier.
Mr Davy said: “I know the UK Government is keen to develop links to our port infrastructure in the likes of Dundee and Montrose, and I think a good business case would underline value a rail link would add.
“A modern service would also suit the decarbonisation agenda for Angus Council and both Scotland’s governments, and provide a huge boost to the local economy of Angus.”
A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “No specific proposals for new rail lines in Angus were put forward by Angus Council for inclusion in the Tay Cities Deal.
“However the deal includes several Scottish Government commitments to support connectivity across the region in the coming years.
“It will lead to investment in low carbon and active travel hubs, better integration of public transport in Perth and developing Dundee Airport as well as the work which is already ongoing to produce a region wide strategic transport model.”
The second Strategic Transport Projects Review, which is now under way, will identify the transport interventions required to provide Scotland with a transport network fit for the 21st century.
Transport Scotland will shortly be writing to councils and regional partners to begin the process of engagement and consider how best to form appropriate groupings across the country to assist in taking this forward.
When Tayside region is considered as a whole, Angus can often be reduced to the poor relation.
Lacking a civic centre or main retail or industrial hub, it can be easily overlooked in favour of bordering Dundee and Perth.
It appears to have again happened with the Tay Cities Deal.
While its neighbours have plans in place for vital infrastructure work, Angus has been scrambling to match its ambitions to the cash on offer.
Late in the day, the notion of a food and drink hub, to celebrate the finest of local produce, was raised.
A bridge over the River Tay it was not. Councillor Braden Davy’s suggestion of an investigation into restoring Angus’ local rail links should not, therefore, be dismissed out of hand.
While eventual results from such a survey would cost many tens of millions of pounds, that is not reason enough to block an initial study.
If rail links open up Angus not only to receive the muchvaunted ripple effect from the rest of Tayside, but create its own manufacturing and service bases, that opportunity should be offered and supported.
The new Cross Tay Rail Link will undoubtedly drive Perth towards a brighter future.
Angus deserves the chance to have its own future prosperity put firmly back on track.