Stonehaven is in line for a major new tourism boost with a road train set to take visitors round the town’s main attractions.
If approved, the two-carriage train would leave from the town square - picking up and dropping off passengers at the open air swimming pool, the new Caravan Club caravan park, the harbour and the area’s biggest tourist attraction, Dunnottar Castle.
The idea came from Michelle Ward, owner of the town’s Royal Hotel, a major force behind the town’s Hogmanay “Open Air In The Square” party and the campaign to re-open the landslide-hit Bervie Braes to traffic during the summer months.
She said this week that the train - which can carry up to 36 passengers - could be on hire for 12 weeks this summer, costing approximately £10,000, hopefully in time for the opening of the Braes in the next few weeks.
And, she added, if the “Stoney Express” proved popular, there could be a business case to buy a road train to operate all year round ... at a cost of about £100,000.
An application by the Stonehaven Town Partnership has already been made to the Coastal Communities Fund.
Michelle explained: “The whole community seems excited by the idea.
‘‘The train, which would be operated under the auspices of Stonehaven Town Partnership, has already been promised backing from the Belvedere Hotel, the Ship Inn, The Royal Hotel and the Marine Hotel.”
And, she added, the train fund had received a surprise offer from the Stonehaven branch of the Bank of Scotland in the Market Square to be put forward for a £3000 grant from the bank’s Communities Fund.
“When Barbara from the Bank of Scotland came into the hotel to tell us I was totally speechless,” said Michelle.
“Everywhere I go, people are speaking about it.”
Michelle also praised Stuart McFarlane, roads manager for Aberdeenshire Council, who has been offering his assistance and technical expertise to speed things up.
She said: “There is a lot to consider when planning the route, such as turning circles, weight restrictions and gradients.
“And as always there is lots of paperwork. We have to file health and safety documents along with route plans, intended stops, refuelling routes and storage locations etc and we have to get permission from both the council and the police before we can make an application to the Vehicle Service Authority for a special traffic order that would allow us to operate the train on a public road.
“These things all take time but I’m absolutely delighted with the response from Aberdeenshire Council. It’s a fine example of partnership working to make our town more attractive to visitors and help local business and hopefully deliver a project that the whole community can enjoy.”