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Writing to FM candidates

Today, CNER have written to the campaigns of Ash Regan, Humza Yousaf and Kate Forbes seeking their support. The next FM has an opportunity to lead a government that embraces the need for modern rail connections, and can help us to #ConnectOurCoast.

Letter text is as follows:

We are writing to you to seek your commitment reconnecting the largest towns, furthest from a railway station in Scotland, namely Peterhead and Fraserburgh. We do so because we believe this will achieve several the Scottish governments stated aims, namely growth, development, the just transition and creating a low carbon economy that works for everyone.

As you may know, the North East was disproportionately affected by the British Rail “Beeching” rail cuts of the 1960s with the consequences to North East communities still being felt today.

The North East is being held back from reaching its full potential. Communities are isolated and under-developed, the local economy does not reach its full potential, car reliance is among the highest in Scotland, and we believe one of the primary reasons for all of this is a lack of high-quality public transport.

Two rail lines serve the region despite Aberdeen being Scotland’s third largest city. Aberdeenshire has more citizens than the city and relies almost totally on road transport to support its economy. Access to high quality rail infrastructure could be transformative not only for passengers, but for the farming, fishing and industrial sectors in Aberdeen and shire, many of whom have expressed their enthusiasm for new rail links and the access to markets that this could bring for their products and service.

You will no doubt be aware that transport is Scotland’s highest CO2 emitting sector. Transport Scotland has committed to decarbonising our railways by 2035, but even today, on a largely diesel network, diesel only produces 2% of Scotland’s total transport emissions.

The IEA has identified the “aggressive expansion”; of rail as one of the most promising solutions to the problem of global greenhouse gas emissions, and the climate crisis they are causing. It is imperative that alongside decarbonising the existing network, we continue to expand the railway, connecting communities, opening low carbon freight paths, and growing Scotland’s economy in the most sustainable way we can with present technology.

Peterhead and Fraserburgh have been recognised as regeneration priority areas with Peterhead also being recognised as a strategic growth area. There are considerable socioeconomic issues that would be significantly alleviated with improved access to markets for growth and development of the towns people and businesses.

The current transport offerings have not alleviated significant issues in these towns, and we believe its time to invest in a proven method to improve growth and prosperity, namely rail investment.

Peterhead is the closest port in the UK to the Danish Straits with the shortest possible sea crossing. A rail connection top Peterhead Port has the potential to attract significant flows of trade with Nordic and Baltic neighbours, creating a virtuous cycle of investment and growth, lifting the region out of its current economic difficulties. Peterhead Port is also home to the largest fishing port in Europe, and the busiest private offshore supply facility in the world. Fraserburgh harbour is diversifying and is ideally located to serve the growing offshore clean energy sector. We believe connecting these towns and the ports to the rail network is a strategic goal for Scotland. This project has the potential to be a catalyst for real economic growth in the region and would foster closer links to our EU and EFTA neighbours.

The Scottish Government Cooperation Agreement promised a new feasibility study examining new rail connections to “Ellon, and further north to Fraserburgh and Peterhead”. CNER have detailed proposals that deliver for the residents of the North East, utilising former solum where appropriate, and deviating on new alignments where there is clear benefit in doing so. It is this combination of old and new that we are working to study with the grant awarded to us by the Just Transition Fund.

We ask that you commit to protecting the Just Transition Fund should you be successful in your effort to become SNP leader, and First Minister of Scotland, such that CNER’s feasibility funding can be secure through to the completion of the study, opening the door to build this important infrastructure. Further, we ask that you support continued dialogue between your government and our campaign going forward should you become First Minister.

Yours sincerely, Campaign for North East Rail

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