North-east Liberal Democrat MSP Alison McInnes has written to the UK Transport Minister, Theresa Villiers MP, to ask that she overturn a Department for Transport decision not to hold a consultation event in Aberdeen on the future of the east coast rail franchise.
The Department for Transport is holding a series of consultation events on the inter-city east coast franchise replacement which it claims “represent the geography of the franchise area”. However, it will not be holding an event north of Edinburgh.
Mrs McInnes commented: “I am very disappointed by the decision of the Department for Transport not to hold a consultation event in Aberdeen. It is unacceptable to expect people to undertake a 250-mile round trip to attend the nearest event.
“I am not suggesting that the Department for Transport hold consultation events at every location serviced along the route. However, Aberdeen is a major transport hub for the North-east and a terminus for the east coast franchise. I am disappointed that this fact has not been properly reflected in the Department for Transport’s consultation process.
“The North-east of Scotland is the most dynamic growth centre in the UK and it is definitely in the interest of the UK to make sure that it is properly supported and continues to attract people as well as investment. The importance of good transport links should not be overlooked as they are a key driver of economic development.”
The Liveral Democrat MSP added: “Transport Scotland’s 2014 Rail Consultation previously proposed that cross-border services stop at an ‘Edinburgh hub’, with passengers forced to change to ScotRail services to continue their journey north. We successfully opposed this flawed plan, yet the suggestion nonetheless demonstrated a lack of understanding of the needs of the North-east.
“These consultation events provide an important opportunity for a variety of organisations and members of the public to engage with the Department for Transport and discuss issues of concern, informing and enhancing the decision making process.
“The Department for Transport needs to make an effort to engage in face-to-face discussions with stakeholders in the North East if it wishes this process to be rigorous and comprehensive.
“Given that the consultation does not close until 18 September, I would hope there would be time for the Minister to reconsider the DfT’s approach.”