Aberdeen City Region Deal chiefs hear “concern” over rail pledge pause

15/05/2024

CITY deal chiefs have heard fears over the future of a £200 million rail project to speed up rail journeys between Aberdeen and the Central Belt.

In 2016, the SNP Scottish Government announced it would add cash to the £250m UK-Scottish Government deal to “boost innovation, internationalisation, digital connectivity, and infrastructure” across the region.

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But only £8.7m was spent of £254m in eight years, before funding for the Aberdeen to Central Belt Journey Time Improvement Project was paused in the 2024-25 Scottish Budget.

And a meeting of North East deal chiefs has been warned the lack of movement “ultimately will have an impact” on the scheme’s delivery.

The Aberdeen City Region Deal Joint Committee heard the funding pause is “obviously a concern” for the wider region deal.

Transport strategy manager Paul Finch told the panel:

“The last MOU update, we were able to provide confirmation that things seemed to be going reasonably well with both the business case and the implementation of the blockades and signalling work that was required…

“It’s since been confirmed in the Scottish Parliament that the implementation work for this current year has been paused due to budget constraints, though business case preparation works and design work do continue.

“But that ultimately will have an impact on the deliverability of that scheme.

“From a city region deal point of view, or wider economic impact for the region, that is obviously a concern just because of the work that this does.

“(It) brings wider benefits in terms of rail freight journey time improvements, local connectivity, and also impacts on the future strategies for rolling stock renewal.”

North East region MSP Douglas Lumsden previously sat on the city region deal panel as Aberdeen council co-leader.

The Scottish Conservative said:

“The Aberdeen City Region Deal has been a transformative influence on the North East in terms of research and digital infrastructure, and it shows the good that can happen when two governments work together for the benefit of everyone.

“There has been substantial buy-in from local councils, Opportunity North East and the private sector to wring the greatest benefit possible out of the deal.

“Sadly, the additional funding announced by the SNP in 2016 has been a mirage. And this has let people across the region down.

“No doubt there will be an attempt to shift the blame to Westminster – but successive SNP governments have had eight years to realise the 20-minute improvement that was promised.

“It’s looking more and more likely that there won’t be any physical infrastructure benefits before 2026, or beyond.

“People involved at the core of the project have told me that it won’t be delivered any time soon.”

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