Aberdeen to Inverness: time for a 21st century railway
In contrast, the Aberdeen to Inverness journey has always been faster by rail than road, but the advantage will be lost if the single-track railway is not substantially upgraded to match massive planned road investment. Improvements to the rail journey have been debated, discussed and studied for more than 25 years – but other than a few additional trains, nothing has been done to take this Inter-City service into the 21st century.
The Government’s proposes to spend £3bn dualling the A96, substantially reducing journey times by road. Rail upgrades planned by Transport Scotland are budgeted to cost just £280m – less than 10% of planned road expenditure on the same corridor. Road improvements will lead to rail traffic shifting to road, and the wider benefits of rail (the safer and more sustainable mode of transport) being lost through more injuries and deaths, increased climate emissions, and extra wear and tear on the A96. A sensible and cost-effective rail upgrade plan – for early implementation – would:
- Reinstate double track from Aberdeen to Inverurie and on the final approaches to Inverness to increase capacity for the main commuter flows and to improve service reliability
- Extend the crossing loops on the line, to facilitate an hourly service frequency from Inverness to Aberdeen – taking two hours or less – and increase capacity for the development of freight traffic.