Aberdeen-Inverness Line

(Aberdeen-Inverness Railway Line)

The Aberdeen-Inverness Line is predominantly a single-track railway, with passing loops, which extends for 108 miles / 174 km, cutting across the Garioch, Strathbogie and Banff districts of N Aberdeenshire, rural N Moray and the south coast of the Moray Firth. There are eleven stations; namely Aberdeen, Dyce, Kintore, Inverurie, Insch, Huntly, Keith, Elgin, Forres, Nairn and Inverness. Dyce is the busiest of the intermediate stations, with the least busy being Huntly and Keith.

This railway was formed from three original lines: the Inverness & Nairn Railway, which opened in 1855, the Inverness & Aberdeen Junction Railway, which connected Nairn with Keith and opened in 1858, and the Great North of Scotland Railway, which ran from Keith to Aberdeen and was completed in 1854. The section from Port Elphinstone to Aberdeen follows the route of the former Aberdeenshire Canal. The Inverness & Aberdeen took over the Inverness & Nairn line in 1861 and merged to become the Highland Railway Company four years later. However, the Great North of Scotland Railway continued until it was absorbed by the London & North Eastern Railway Company in 1923, when the Highland Railway became part of the London, Midland & Scottish Railway group, the largest transport company in the world at the time. These two companies were brought together under state ownership with the nationalisation of the British railways in 1948. Passenger services are now operated by the privately-held ScotRail, which is also responsible for running the stations. The track and fixed assets are owned and maintained by Network Rail, a public body.

At least 35 stations closed in the 1960s, together with a number of branches which once formed an extensive railway network across NE Scotland. These branches included lines leading to Fort George; Findhorn; Hopeman; Rothes and Lossiemouth (the former Morayshire Railway); Fochabers; Buckie, Portessie and the Moray Coast Railway; Dufftown and Craigellachie (on the Keith and Dufftown Railway) then on to Boat of Garten via the former Strathspey Railway; Banff (the former Banff, Portsoy and Strathisla Railway), Macduff (the former Banff, Macduff and Turriff Junction Railway), Old Meldrum, and Alford (the former Alford Valley Railway). Freight services to Fraserburgh on the former Formartine and Buchan Railway continued until 1979.

More recently, journey times and an irregular service between Aberdeen and Inverness meant that this route did not offer an attractive alternative to road travel (via the A96 Trunk Road). The Scottish Government initiated an improvement project in 2015 which has seen a doubling of the track between Aberdeen and Inverurie and a half-hourly service on that same section. As part of the project, a new station opened at Kintore in 2020, with another at Dalcross is intended to open c. 2023. Further phases will redouble other sections of the track, with the aspiration of yet faster journey time and an hourly service along the entire route. There are currently eleven trains a day in each direction and the fastest train takes two hours and nine minutes to complete the route.

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