£218m up­grade to save mere sec­onds on travel

Line over­haul faces axe as jour­ney times not re­duced enough

The Courier & Advertiser (Fife Edition) - - NEWS - GRAEME STRA­CHAN Du­alling of the sin­gle track was sup­posed to cut times by 20 min­utes. gstra­[email protected]­courier.co.uk

A £218 mil­lion plan to cut rail jour­ney times will re­sult in “mere sec­onds of im­prove­ment” across Tay­side and Fife, a new re­port has re­vealed.

The planned up­grade of the line at Usan near Mon­trose now faces be­ing scrapped, a decade af­ter it was first mooted.

The sin­gle-track stretch was iden­ti­fied as a rea­son for un­com­pet­i­tive Dundee to Aberdeen rail jour­ney times as far back as 2003.

The one-and-a-half mile sec­tion of sin­gle track be­tween Usan and the South Esk viaduct at Mon­trose Basin means that at cer­tain times trains have to slow down and wait for oth­ers to pass.

The prom­ise to dual it was in­cluded in pro­pos­als to cut jour­neys be­tween Aberdeen and Ed­in­burgh by 20 min­utes, un­veiled by the SNP in 2008.

How­ever, a meet­ing of the Trans­port Scot­land ref­er­ence group over­see­ing the pro­ject has now heard the planned £218m in­vest­ment will only scrape a two-minute im­prove­ment.

Trans­port Scot­land’s head of rail Bill Reeve spoke to the city deal com­mit­tee in Aberdeen yesterday where he re­vealed the much-touted improvements around Mon­trose Basin had been found to of­fer no time ben­e­fits.

The meet­ing heard the mas­sive piece of An­gus in­fra­struc­ture has been ef­fec­tively binned.

MSP Liam Kerr said the gov­ern­ment had “over-promised and un­der­de­liv­ered” to the peo­ple of An­gus.

“A decade of prom­ises will re­sult in mere sec­onds of im­prove­ment across Tay­side and Fife,” he said.

“There clearly was lit­tle to no work done on what we would ac­tu­ally get for £200 mil­lion.

“Fur­ther, much of what is be­ing pro­posed sounds like the kind of up­grades that Net­work Rail should be do­ing as a mat­ter of course.

“I will be tabling ques­tions at par­lia­ment im­me­di­ately to get to the bot­tom of this fiasco.”

It is un­der­stood the group will now con­sider al­ter­na­tive ap­proaches to de­ter­mine whether there could be a bet­ter re­turn for in­vest­ment.

A Trans­port Scot­land spokesman said: “To­day’s meet­ing was an op­por­tu­nity to brief the Aberdeen City Re­gion Deal Joint Com­mit­tee on the find­ings of the rail re­port com­mis­sioned by the ref­er­ence group.

“In ad­di­tion, the con­sen­sus across the group was that fur­ther work is re­quired to iden­tify the max­i­mum pos­si­ble ben­e­fits achiev­able for the £200m avail­able. While it is too early to say what the out­comes of that will be, all within the ref­er­ence group re­main com­mit­ted to ded­i­cat­ing the time and re­sources nec­es­sary to reach the right so­lu­tion as soon as is prac­ti­ca­ble.”

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