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

The Courier & Advertiser (Angus and The Mearns Edition) - - FRONT PAGE - GRAEME STRA­CHAN gstra­[email protected]­courier.co.uk

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.

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