Campaigners in favour of re-opening the Buchan rail line say that figures for forecasted passenger numbers can’t be overly pessimistic.
North-East councillors have written to Nestrans director Derick Murray to state that there is a trend of underestimating such numbers and that this should not adversely affect any plans to restore a rail network to Ellon, Peterhead and Fraserburgh.
Councillors Martin Ford and Paul Johnston assertions come as over a million passengers have travelled on the Borders Railway since it opened last September.
A February report from Transport Scotland said that this number was more than 20 per cent higher than expected though verified passenger numbers are not yet available.
Laurencekirk Station has also exceeded initial expectations since it re-opened in 2009 with some years having more than the double projected usage.
In the letter to Mr Murray the councillors state: “The pessimism in the forecasting of expected use amounts to a bias against rail re-openings and risks seeing proposed schemes blocked when they would be successful.
“The Borders line outcome is not unique.
“Passenger numbers using rail stations and lines that have re-opened have generally been above – often well above – the forecast numbers used to decide whether the re-opening was a value-for-money investment.”
Councillor Ford, East Garioch, said: “There must be no bias against re-opening the rail line to Ellon or beyond in the evaluation of future transport options for the Fraserburgh, Peterhead, Ellon, Aberdeen transport corridor.”
Councillor Johnston, Mid-Formartine, said: “No-one expects passenger number forecasts to be exactly correct every time. But the pattern of repeated underestimates strongly suggests the methods being used are not accurately reflecting actual behaviour.”
He added: “The desire to bring back the Buchan line must not be derailed by faulty forecasts.”
Derick Murray, director of Nestrans, responded by confirming: “We wholeheartedly agree that a realistic and robust assessment gives decision-makers the best possible grounds on which to determine the viability of any rail project, or any infrastructure project for that matter, and would always encourage factual assessments in every case.”
Nestrans are currently looking at options to better North East transport links.