Dec 062016

With thanks to Martin Ford.


East Garioch councillor and member of the Nestrans board, Martin Ford.

East Garioch councillor, Martin Ford is continuing to press the case for the proposed rail halt at Kintore as funding is promised for the project but the planned opening date is pushed back.

The latest funding contribution was agreed at the North East of Scotland Transport Partnership (Nestrans) board meeting on Friday (2 December). The Nestrans board was advised the Scottish Government had increased its agreed funding contribution towards constructing a station in Kintore to £7.32 million (60 per cent of the estimated cost) while Aberdeenshire Council had now committed up to £1.898 million.

By agreeing to an increased allocation of £2.974 million for Kintore station from Nestrans’ budgets, the Nestrans board closed the remaining funding gap – meaning the entire £12.2 million estimated construction cost is now pledged to the project. 

Councillor Martin Ford is a member of the Nestrans board. He said:

“Clearly, funding is one of the essentials for getting a station built in Kintore. I was pleased to support an increased contribution from Nestrans towards the estimated construction cost. On top of the extra funding now put in place by Aberdeenshire Council and the Scottish Government, this means all the money expected to be required to build the station is now committed to the project. I’m delighted that’s been achieved.”

Friday’s Nestrans board meeting was also advised that the expected cost of the Aberdeen–Inverness rail line upgrade had increased from £170 million to £330 million. The board was told that consequently completion of the upgrading works would have to be delayed so some work could take place in financial year 2019/2020, instead of all work being undertaken before March 2019.

The new planned completion date for the Aberdeen–Inverness rail line upgrade is December 2019, with Kintore station now intended to open in July 2019.

At Councillor Ford’s suggestion, the Nestrans board asked Nestrans director Derick Murray to write to the Office of Rail and Road seeking an explanation for the huge cost increase for the Aberdeen–Inverness rail line upgrade.

Said Cllr Martin Ford:

“The scale of the increase in the projected cost of the Aberdeen–Inverness rail line upgrade is astonishing, especially since the work has already started. What has changed? Or was the previous estimate wrongly calculated? Or why have anticipated prices risen so drastically? We need to have an explanation.”

The original planned opening date for Kintore Station was March 2019. This was brought forward to December 2018 so the new station would be available for passengers when the line between Kintore and Inverurie was due to be closed for several weeks in early 2019 to allow renewal of the viaduct over the River Don. Now, with the upgrading works for the whole line on an extended timescale, the opening date for Kintore station is being pushed back to July 2019.

Cllr Martin Ford said:

“Apart from the alarming overall cost increase for the Aberdeen–Inverness rail line upgrade, the delay in the expected opening date for Kintore station is also very disappointing.”

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Nov 042016

MartinFordatUTGWith thanks to Martin Ford.

Aberdeenshire councillors Paul Johnston and Martin Ford have welcomed support from sustainable transport charity Transform Scotland for the re-opening of the Buchan rail line to at least Ellon.

Writing to Councillors Johnston and Ford, Paul Tetlaw, rail spokesperson for Transform Scotland, said:

“In our view Aberdeen is very poorly served by rail and cities of comparable size in continental Europe would most likely enjoy a suburban rail network and some form of tram or metro system. So we would certainly support plans to re-open the railway from Dyce at least as far as Ellon.

“You are in the fortunate position that the former track bed is largely in local authority ownership. In contrast large parts of the Borders railway had been dispersed into multiple ownerships and it is estimated that as much as 40% of the cost of re-opening the Borders line was incurred through having to retrieve and suitably re-instate the sections of the route that had been lost.
“There are other lessons to be learned from the Borders line – and these may well have parallels for you. The passenger forecasts for the re-opened stations in the Borders were hopelessly pessimistic. Indeed it is probably true to say that of all the recent rail re-openings across the UK the projections for the stations at Tweedbank and Galashiels were by far the most inaccurate.

“Passenger numbers at Galashiels have in reality been five fold those projected while those at the Tweedbank park and ride site are ten fold the projections. Clearly such errors in the projections led to a poorer business case for the railway and politicians found themselves needlessly having to defend the case for the re-opening. Had the correct projections been used then it would have been clear to all concerned that the railway would be a great success and would be much welcomed by people in the Borders.
“The parallels that I would draw in your case are for potential stations in Ellon (Galashiels) and a park and ride beyond (Tweedbank). It is interesting to note that from day one the car park at Tweedbank has been full and overflowing – clearly demonstrating that people are quite prepared to drive in from surrounding towns and villages and then leave their car and take the train into the city.
“As a final point I would draw attention to the declared ambitions at both national and local government level to increase the use of public transport and decrease the reliance on the car. It is therefore clear that only a scheme that improves the public transport offering will deliver on these ambitions, any further road building will simply ensure yet greater car use with all the negative impacts on air quality, public health and congestion.”

Mr Tetlaw came to Aberdeen last week for a meeting with Nestrans but also met Cllr Ford and Cllr Johnston during his visit.
Cllr Martin Ford said:

“The very positive comments from Mr Tetlaw highlight that re-opening the Buchan line presents less of a difficulty than other lines where the track bed has been sold off piecemeal to multiple owners. Also, that we must not underestimate the potential for park-and-ride when forecasting likely levels of use.”

Cllr Paul Johnston said:

“The proposal to re-open the Buchan line to at least Ellon is gaining more and more support.”

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Oct 152016

MartinFordatUTGWith thanks to Martin Ford.

A new option is to be included in on-going studies looking at the possibility of re-opening the former Buchan rail line from Dyce to at least Ellon.
The suggestion of re-opening the Buchan line as far as a park-and-ride station just north of Ellon was put forward by East Garioch councillor Martin Ford at the North East of Scotland Transport Partnership (Nestrans) meeting on 30 September.

The Dyce to Ellon section of the long-closed Buchan rail route has been regarded as the most likely to meet value-for-money criteria for possible re-opening.

In making the proposal for a short additional length of line at the Nestrans board meeting, Cllr Ford cited the passenger numbers on the re-opened Borders line. While overall levels of use of the new Borders Railway during its first year have been well above predictions, passenger numbers have been highest and most above forecast at Tweedbank, the park-and-ride station at the end of the line.

“The unforeseen popularity of long-distance park-and-ride on the re-opened Borders Railway is noteworthy,” said Cllr Ford.

“The success of Tweedbank as a park-and-ride station has contributed disproportionately to the overall success of the Borders Railway.

“The Borders line experience suggests it is well worth looking at the possibility of replicating the model of re-opening to a terminus that provides a convenient park-and-ride facility for the area beyond.

“For the Buchan line, that could mean continuing the railway to a station just beyond Ellon which is easily accessed from the north by bus and car.”

The A948 north of Ellon passes close to the alignments of both the former Boddam branch and the Formartine and Buchan line to Fraserburgh and Peterhead.

Cllr Martin Ford said:

“I believe there is a good case for re-opening at least the southern part of the Buchan railway, but it’s crucial to identify the option with the best benefit:cost ratio to maximise the chances of getting the go-ahead.

“The continuation of the Borders Railway two miles beyond Galashiels to provide a popular park-and-ride facility at Tweedbank has made a major contribution to the success of that rail re-opening. We need to investigate whether doing something similar at Ellon could boost the case for re-opening the railway from Dyce.”

The Nestrans board at its meeting on Friday agreed to continue feasibility studies into future transport options for the Aberdeen/Ellon/Peterhead/Fraserburgh corridor, and to include re-opening the Buchan rail line from Dyce to a park-and-ride station just north of Ellon as one possible option for consideration.

Mid-Formartine councillor Paul Johnston welcomed the Nestrans decision.

“Park-and-rail evidently has potential not just for north of Ellon but also for the B999 corridor at Udny and the A947 corridor at Newmachar. So it’s important to look at all the options,” he said.

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May 272016

Martin Ford Kintore3With thanks to Martin Ford.

East Garioch councillor Martin Ford is delighted that Aberdeenshire Council’s Garioch Area Committee is to decide this Tuesday (31 May) on supporting a funding bid to the Scottish Stations Fund for the proposed station at Kintore.

Cllr Ford has been campaigning for a new station at Kintore for many years.

He said:

“Assembling the funding package to enable a Kintore station to be built is clearly an essential step towards delivering that goal. And an application to the Scottish Stations Fund has always been seen as a key element in the expected overall funding mix.”

The report to the Garioch Area Committee highlights the strength of the business case for building a station at Kintore.

Cllr Martin Ford said:

“There is a very strong case for prioritising the proposed Kintore station for funding. All the investigative studies have concluded a station at Kintore will be well used, with a good benefit:cost ratio.

“A station at Kintore looks like a sound investment and good value for money.”

Cllr Ford has also welcomed some new and updated information relating to the planned delivery of the new station.

“In the emerging timetable, it looks like there will be 3–4 trains per hour serving Kintore,” said Cllr Ford.

“And to fit with the overall construction strategy for the upgrading works being undertaken along the line, the planned opening date for the new station at Kintore has been brought forward slightly – from March 2019 to December 2018. This is certainly good news.”

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Feb 042016

Alex-Salmond-MP-MSPthm-Credit-SNP-AberdeenshireWith thanks to Tom Collins, Press Officer, Rt. Hon. Alex Salmond MP MSP

MSP for Aberdeenshire East, Alex Salmond, has welcomed a response from Transport Minister Derek Mackay MSP on Monday (1 February 2016) informing him that Network Rail are progressing well with rail improvements between Aberdeen and Inverness.

The 108-mile route is set to benefit from a £170 million upgrade which will include platform extensions, signalling enhancements and the re-doubling of the line between Aberdeen and Inverurie.

Mr Salmond had also raised the issue of the need to mitigate for flooding along the line, to reduce the risk of disruption to services.

In his response, Mr Mackay said:

“The project remains on target for completion by March 2019, and within the spending cap.

“With regard to flood mitigation, Network Rail is working with industry partners to make Scotland’s rail infrastructure more resilient to the current and predicted weather and climate change impacts across the network. This should help to ensure that efficient and reliable train services are maintained, including those between Aberdeen and Inverness.”

Mr Salmond said:

“The upgrading of this service is good news for the people of the North East and will ensure that the full potential of the corridor of prosperity between Aberdeen and Inverness will be realised quickly and efficiently. I met with representatives of Network Rail last month, and I am pleased that their work remains on schedule.

“The redoubling of the line between Inverurie and Aberdeen, alongside the new station at Kintore will only serve to enhance these benefits of this essential transport link and help bring new people and opportunities to our local communities and what they offer.”

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Sep 102015

Alex Salmond head and shouldersWith thanks to Tom Collins, Press Officer, Rt. Hon. Alex Salmond MP MSP

Alex Salmond MSP (Aberdeenshire East) MP (Gordon) has hailed the Aberdeen to Inverness transport network as a “corridor of prosperity”.
Earlier this month, Derek Mackay MSP, Minister for Transport and Islands, unveiled the first of 40 new-look trains as part of a £14-million modernisation project.

The refurbished trains are tailored for use on Scotland’s scenic routes and will be released onto the rail network at a rate of one a month.

The SNP’s local agenda for transport and economic development includes more than £170 million worth of improvements to the railway line and the development of key tourist destinations around each station. The upgrades will be complete by 2019.

The Scottish Government has also put plans in place to dual the A96, which will involve a total of 86 miles worth of upgrades. The project will deliver many benefits including improved journey time and reliability, delivering economic growth, improved connectivity and reduce the rate and severity of accidents.

Commenting, Mr Salmond said:

“The SNP Government is dedicated to improving transport services throughout Scotland. This is evident in the £177 million worth of improvements that are planned for our existing railway line.

“I am pleased to hear that the Scottish Government continues to invest in public transport and I cannot wait to see these tailored carriages on our fantastic Aberdeen to Inverness line.

“It is also important that we continue to improve our road network too – ensuring that it is both reliable and safe for passengers to use.

“This dedication to our transport network will create a corridor of prosperity between Aberdeen and Inverness.

“All of these important upgrades will provide an economic boost as well as reducing overall CO2 emissions, benefitting communities at every stage of the 108-mile long line.”

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Oct 102014

Eilidh WhitefordMSP, Dr Eilidh Whiteford welcomes new rail franchise announcement. With thanks to Paul Robertson

Dr Eilidh Whiteford, MP for Banff and Buchan, has welcomed the announcement by Scottish Government Transport Minister of a new deal for Scotland’s railways, with a new franchise agreement that will see reduced fares and better working conditions for staff.

Operator Abellio, which will take on the running of the £6billion franchise from 1 April 2015. Abellio will move their UK HQ to Glasgow creating 50 new jobs alongside 150 jobs secured from First.

As a result of the new deal, passengers and staff will enjoy a range of benefits including advance fares starting at £5 between Scottish cities and a commitment to earnings of at least the Living Wage for all staff and subcontractors.

The deal also includes at least 100 apprenticeships; a guarantee of no compulsory redundancies;  rail staff pensions and travel rights protected; free wifi on all trains; a new approach to cycling with more than 3,500 parking spaces and bike-hire at a number of stations; 80 new trains due to arrive at start of December 2017; 23 per cent more carriages across the network.

Commenting, Banff and Buchan MP Eilidh Whiteford said:

“The new contract is great news for passengers in the North-east.

“The new deal will rejuvenate our rail service and deliver a first class service that will rival any public transport system in Europe.

“A large investment in new trains in the coming years is a welcome development in shortening journey times, and the pledge of £5 fares between Scotland’s major cities is a great step towards making public transport an affordable alternative to taking the car on long journeys.

“The pledge to pay Living Wage to all employees including subcontractors and the commitment to no compulsory redundancies is welcome news for those railway workers and with all staff to have their rail staff pensions and travel rights protected, this really does represent a better deal.

“The establishment of a new Scottish training academy will also help build a better rail industry for the future – and the commitment to 100 apprenticeships will help get things off to a flying start.”

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Jul 162014

gtm_classic_vintage_gatheringWith thanks to Martyn Smith.

A wide selection of cars, commercial vehicles and motorcycles will descend on the village of Alford for the annual Classic and Vintage Gathering, this Sunday at the Grampian Transport Museum, from 1pm until 4pm

Visitors will be able to view displays of pre-1990 vehicles, including cars from the likes of Austin, Ferrari, Triumph and MG, as well as a selection of vintage buses and other commercial vehicles.

Anyone interested in entering a pre-1990 vehicle can do so on the day, simply by turning up between 11.30 and 12.45. For just £15 the driver and one guest will get entry to the event, complimentary access to the museum, and light refreshments.

Visitor admission to the event is included in the standard museum admission fee. Adult admission is £9.50, concessions are £7.50 and two children are admitted free with every adult.

Further information on the museum and all its outdoor events is available online at

Jun 272014

Asleep at the wheelBy Duncan Harley

There are well over 25 thousand museums in the UK, ranging from national institutions such as Glasgow’s Burrell collection, to the likes of the Maud Railway Museum, with many others in between.

Some museums are open 24/7 and are free to all comers.

Others are subject to a voluntary donation and are open mainly during the summer months, except on Wednesdays, unless of course there is a Q in the month; but I digress.

Funding, or the lack of it, dictates opening hours, and unpaid volunteers are the mainstay of most such museum enterprises. In the main they are a sterling effort, but often difficult to access due to these constraints. There is no criticism intended here, only comment.


Fortunately for us in the North East of Scotland, the Bon Accord Steam Engine Club is in the habit of bringing heritage right to our doorstep.

Hosted by the Scottish National Trust flagship property, Castle Fraser, the Bon Accord Steam Fair of 2014 was by all accounts a flagship event. With over 50 thousand gallons of water and a good few tons of coal on tap, the magnificent engines which drove the industry of both Victoria’s last decades and the early years of the 20th Century fairly wowed the crowds.

Steam power is of course nothing new, and the history of the steam engine stretches back to the First Century AD, with the first recorded rudimentary steam engine being the Aeolipile described by the Greek mathematician and engineer Hero of Alexandria.

It’s a powerful means of propulsion which the likes of Scottish inventor James Watt used to good effect, to produce rotary motion.

advanceAt some risk of injury, try placing some tinfoil over the spout of your kettle at full boil and you’ll see what I mean. Steam is indeed powerful stuff.

Steam engines powered Scottish industry for well over eighty years. Mills, ships and transport benefited from the power of steam. In fact some would argue that the empire was built on the back of it. The Clyde built steam ship Waverley and her sister ship Jeanie Deans epitomised the breed.

However at the heart of it all was the humble steam traction engine.

The Bon Accord Steam Engine Club (BASEC) was founded by Bill Barrack, an enthusiast concerned that many magnificent self-propelled steam engines were ending up as scrap. He and a few like-minded folk set about preserving them for the enjoyment of future generations. I am pleased to say that Bill’s efforts, plus those of all of his fellow enthusiasts, have not been in vain.


As if the spectacle of over forty steam-powered road vehicles entering the show ring at last Sunday’s event was not enough, one in particular caught the public’s attention.

While the Kintore Pipe Band piped “Happy Birthday” amidst the grey coal smoke and white steam of yesteryear, the veteran one hundred year old steam traction engine Finella, owned by the Barrack family since 1947, stood proudly to attention while her birthday wishes from the Queen were read out to the assembled crowd.

Her Majesty had taken time to send her good wishes to a centenarian who even in retirement continues working to bring pleasure to all who see her.

bon accord 4Founded in 1967, and with ten years under its belt at the Castle Fraser venue, the Bon Accord Steam Engine Club have proved yet again how enduring the power of steam can be.

On the drive home we followed a line of admiring petrol heads, in a long and smoky queue behind Grampian Transport Museum’s Sentinel Steam Wagon as it slowly drove along the highways and byways of the long road to Alford, at an average speed of 19 mph or less.

No one overtook the smoking monster and no one really minded the holdup.

Such is the price of heritage.

© Duncan Harley All rights reserved

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Jun 062014

With thanks to Martyn Smith.

Maudslay2Grampian Transport Museum will be the venue for a special treat for Dads on Father’s Day, Sunday 15th June.

Some of the world’s fastest and most exotic cars will take to the museums purpose-built road circuit, each with a passenger seat waiting to be taken. Just £10 will buy one of our Fathers Day Supercar Rides tickets, giving several laps around the track as a front seat passenger.

An eclectic mix of cars including Ferrari, Lamborghini, TVR, Luego, and Porsche will give Dad a day to remember.

Rides are limited to dads only – who must be over the age of 18 – but the event is a great day out for all the family. Tickets for the rides sessions are £10 if pre-booked or £15 on the day, subject to availability.

Later in the summer children will be able to enjoy a ride around the circuit as part of the ‘Big Stuff’ session, which takes place on Thursday 10th July – or the ‘Fast Car Rides’ session which takes place on Wednesday 23rd July.

The Grampian Transport Museum features a number of exciting and exclusive exhibitions for 2014 including The Great Train Robbery exhibit and multi-million pound HGV simulator. Also, the unique Junior Driving School will be open for younger visitors to enjoy.