Published: 20th October 2015
A significant new contract for work to improve the railway between Aberdeen and Inverness has been announced by the Scottish Government agency Transport Scotland.
The appointment of BAM as principal contractor for the £170m upgrade of the line was announced on 16 October 2015, more than 20 years after hopes for a route upgrade were originally aired.
The announcement came as members of the Scottish National Party (SNP) gathered at Aberdeen for their annual conference, so the timing was hardly a coincidence. The SNP Scottish Government says it is funding the enhancement to transform journeys on the route.
A half-hourly “commuter” service is planned between Aberdeen and Inverurie and additional peak services are to run between Inverness and Elgin. There will be reduced journey times between Aberdeen and Inverness among improvements.
At present, trains are mostly end to end at irregular intervals. There are some other services at each end of the route.
Although spared the “Beeching axe” of the 1960s, the notorious report of 1963 recommended closure of the now very busy intermediate station at Inverurie. Much double track was reduced to single in the early 1970s with passing loops often at awkward places that caused delays. Significant sections of that negative work will be reversed.
BAM is already well-versed in reversing 20th century negativity, having just completed the on-time, on-budget £294m Borders Railway. BAM will now oversee the delivery of the Aberdeen-Inverness enhancement, the first phase of which is due for completion in 2019. A further phase is to be developed.
During the next four years, 16 miles will be doubled between Aberdeen and Inverurie. A new station will be built at Forres, where the railway alignment will be straightened. Platforms at Elgin and Insch will be extended to accommodate longer trains. Signalling will be upgraded along the route
Infrastructure will be altered to allow space for new stations to be built at Dalcross, near Inverness, and Kintore, at the Aberdeen end of the 108-mile route. Plans for the new stations are being developed separately by two regional transport partnerships, HITRANS, the Highlands and Islands Transport partnership at Dalcross, and NESTRANS, the North East Scotland Transport partnership at Kintore.
Jerry Dickson, Operations Director for BAM, said: “We are particularly proud to have been awarded this contract in our 150th anniversary year, which has also seen BAM and Network Rail successfully re-open the Borders Railway, which is now providing an essential rail link between Edinburgh and the Scottish Borders.”
Mr Dickson also said: “Together with our partners AECOM, CH2M, Stobart Rail and Siemens, we are looking forward to commencing work on the Aberdeen to Inverness Enhancement Programme. This essential programme of works will improve connectivity between the major cities of Aberdeen and Inverness, with wider enhancements for the local communities in the north of Scotland.”
Keith Brown MSP, Scotland’s Cabinet Secretary for Infrastructure, Investment and Cities, said: “Today marks the Scottish Government’s landmark investment package of £170m to improve a key route connecting both northern cities, which will make journeys shorter, more frequent and more comfortable for those who use this important line regularly.
“This project is especially valuable for the region for, as well as the clear benefits to passengers and freight users, it will also support jobs and growth, providing an economic boost to the cities and communities along the entire length of the route.”
Phil Verster, managing director of the ScotRail Alliance, said: “BAM’s appointment is the first step on a journey that will deliver significant benefits for the North and North East of Scotland. Reduced journey times and the ability to run bigger trains with more seats will transform customers’ experience of rail travel.”
Mr Verster added that this is what the ScotRail Alliance of Network Rail and franchisee Abellio is all about, giving communities across Scotland the opportunity to prosper.