Mixed fortunes for Scottish airport links
The first phase of a new station for Inverness Airport has been given the go ahead, but a multimillion pound scheme for a rail link connecting Aberdeen International Airport with a new exhibition and conference centre in the city has been grounded for financial reasons.
The Inverness scheme is being promoted by HITRANS (Highlands & Island Transport Partnership), the statutory regional transport body responsible for the Highlands and Islands area. A detailed planning application has been lodged with the Highland Council, and £4.8m funding of the £5.5m scheme is being sought through the Network Rail administered Scottish Stations Fund.
“The railway station will not only serve the regional airport with new Park and Ride facilities and additional parking space (for 150 vehicles), but it also serves the neighbouring Inverness Airport Business Park, new housing settlements, such as Tornagrain (with 5,000 houses), and it will ease pressure on the busy A96 Inverness-Aberdeen road,” says HITRANS.
The new station will be part of the Network Rail’s £170m upgrade of the Inverness – Aberdeen line, which runs close to the airport. A single platform on the northern side of the single track line (at Dalcross) is envisaged; it will be 173 metres long and capable of accommodating 2 +4 and 2+5 HST units. The design allows for a second platform in the event of future track doubling.
The original Dalcross station closed in 1965.
A HITRANS spokesman informed 21CR that construction should start next year with opening expected sometime in 2018.
HITRANS is also considering opening another station on the same line at Seafield to serve the Inverness retail park and university.
Aberdeen City Council (ACC) had banked on funding a new £70m rail link between the airport and the new Aberdeen Exhibition and Conference Centre (AECC) – scheduled for 2019 opening – with proceeds from devolved airport duty (APD). However the Scottish government says it has no plans to devolve this revenue source to councils, which has effectively scuppered the scheme.
The Holyrood regime was also sceptical about the business case.
ACC had hoped to retain approximately £20m of APD annually.
The council maintained that the existing rail link at Dyce (also on the Aberdeen-Inverness line) is on the ‘wrong side’ of the airport as passengers have to complete their journeys by bus. Compulsory purchase would not have been required as ACC owns the land needed for a light or heavy rail link. ACC did not intend to run the scheme itself but was confident it would have offered lucrative prospects for a private operator.