OVER the years many of my older family members here in the north-east have reminisced about the old railway. Often, we would be out walking by the old tracks and they would recall what it was like when rail was felt, smelt and experienced.

Through those rose-tinted spectacles we often fondly look back to the age of steam and the extensive networks that linked local communities. For me, it included tales of the Formartine and Buchan Railway in the north-east, and more so since becoming elected, local constituents have relayed tales of childhoods and the rail links.

Often with the memories of family members visiting from across Scotland and beyond coming to our beautiful coast for seaside holidays, getting away from the industrial hive of activity in the cities, travelling through to Peterhead and Fraserburgh from the 1860s up until its closure a century later (firstly for passengers and subsequently for freight).

If we cut through the romanticism still talked about in my constituency, there is the underbelly of inequality and hardship that eventually robbed the “railway children” of their line.

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The controversial cuts to the service enacted by British Railways Board chairman Richard Beeching in the 1960s devastated the north-east. In his report, The Reshaping of British Railways, he called for around one-third of the UK’s train stations to be shut, affecting some 5000 miles of track.

At the time, he said the routes were not cost-effective to run. This left some communities effectively cut off from the rail network – including the likes of those in Fraserburgh, who then had to travel 40 miles to their nearest station. Now, decades later, we need to assess the long-term damage that decision has done to the communities affected and whether the economic case has changed.

The reopening of the Borders Railway has shown local rail can be a success again. In recent years, there has been a renewed interest in revitalising part of the rail network. This is because of the environmental and safety benefits, which I believe must be included in any feasibility study as we move to a more health and wellbeing focused economy.

This is something I, along with others, have been working incredibly hard to make happen via meetings with Scottish Government ministers and by calling on public support.

I held a successful public meeting in August where the Campaign for North-East Rail (CNER) showcased their proposals to members of the public. The meeting followed on from the success of another CNER presentation to the public in the context of a series of tourism-related events organised by my parliamentary team, “Making the Most of the Coast: Tourism Forum”, which had support from businesses engaged in this key sector area.

The funding of a feasibility study was a big step to overcome, the likes of which could cost around £250,000. The potential of linking this into a just transition was something my parliamentary team thought could be possible.

I am thrilled to say there is now major news in that CNER have received confirmation of funding for a feasibility study from the Just Transition fund. This means the prospect of rerailing Peterhead and Fraserburgh is one step closer to becoming a reality. I encourage supporters of the campaign to get in touch with me to give their backing. Organisations, businesses and residents will all have the opportunity to feed into further consultation. As community engagement continues, my team and I are looking to hold another public meeting on this in the future which is to take place in Fraserburgh. There’s a clear demand for rail links here, with an overwhelming amount of people expressing that rerailing Fraserburgh and Peterhead is long overdue. Feedback from residents here is often that this should have been done 40 years ago – and I don’t disagree with that.

The north-east region has generated billions of pounds for the whole of the UK economy and I believe it’s time that we saw that invested back. By awarding a feasibility study for the campaign’s proposals, the Scottish Government are showing that they are giving serious consideration to this project.

The benefits of making this a reality is multi-faceted. Moving freight from road to rail will reduce road damage, congestion and traffic, which in turn will reduce accidents and emissions – not to mention the benefits to the sustainable fishing industry and its processors.

Regeneration is the biggest factor here too. By investing in rail here it will undoubtedly have a significantly positive impact in regard to putting more money in the pockets of the people who live and work here.

This could be transformational.

There has always been a perception that wealth is abundant here in the north-east. I cannot stress enough how this is not true. In my constituency there are real pockets of deprivation. The oil wealth bypassed them and went straight to London.

But I foresee that investment here in our ports, in offshore wind, in carbon capture and storage with the added rail line will ensure a boom time not just for the north-east but the whole of Scotland.

Imagine the possibilities of having a direct rail link and shipping port to the rest of the continent. A doorway leading straight to Scotland – we should not be just a throughfare.

I will continue to do everything I can to make this a reality and if current momentum continues at this pace it will showcase a sufficient demand for this. Please continue to get in touch with me to express your support of the campaign because the more people that I hear from, the more concrete of a case I have.

I look forward to presenting my motion “Rerailing North-East Scotland” to the SNP conference.

I hope to showcase what we have here, and in turn really implant in peoples’ minds what unlocking the potential of the north-east could do for all of Scotland, especially an independent Scotland.