More trains to stop plea

THERe has been a call for an increase in the number of trains stopping at Laurencekirk Railway Station.

The station opened just under two years ago after being closed to passenger services for 42 years.

The high number of passengers using the station in the 21 months since it reopened has prompted calls for more trains to stop there and better bus links to the station.

The numbers using the station are double what was predicted and people are calling for extra services following a survey.

Laurencekirk is expanding rapidly, with hundreds of new houses already built and more in the offing. Campaigners want extra bus services put on to connect with trains.

The survey into train needs was carried out by North-east MSP Nigel Don.

Mr Don said: “My survey of residents in the Mearns and Montrose areas focused on public transport and the feeling was that there were not enough trains stopping in Laurencekirk.

“Given the success of the station so far this needs to be looked at and I took the concerns to First ScotRail’s managing director Steve Montgomery, specifically mentioning Laurencekirk.

“Mr Montgomery said they would continue to look at issues around Laurencekirk’s stopping pattern and the connections with other transport operators.

“Not everyone has a car and connectivity between trains and buses was part of the issue.

“Train operators want to get journey times down and that means they are concerned not to have too many stops on the way - one of the reasons why not all trains stop in Laurencekirk.

“As far as I am concerned, transport links in this part of the world are vital, as otherwise we are all reduced to using cars and that is something we don’t want to have to do.”

Laurencekirk station closed to passenger services in 1967 but reopened in 2009 after being transformed through a £3.5 million investment, with Scottish Government funding supported by Aberdeenshire Council and a railway heritage trust grant.

At the moment, 11 northbound and 10 southbound services stop in Laurencekirk from Monday to Saturday and this was seen by all as very acceptable in the run-up to the reopening. Three trains stop each way on a Sunday.

ScotRail expected 36,000 passengers to use Laurencekirk station in the first 12 months after it opened, but in fact nearly twice as many, 64,000 used it during the period.

Local councillors have backed the call for more trains to stop.

Councillor Jean Dick said: “There are a couple of periods when we could have even more people travelling on the railway and from what I hear this is terribly inconvenient.”

Provost Bill Howatson said: “Since the station reopened, I think the usage has been 80% above what was expected.

“That shows there is very clear demand and that the station is being extremely well used.”

Councillor Tom Fleming said: “With passenger numbers exceeding expectations, I would have thought there was a case for more trains stopping.”