Plans to reopen Alford railway are on track

Plans to bring a popular north-east railway tourist attraction back into use are on track thanks to support from Aberdeenshire Council.

By Kirstie Topp, Local Democracy Reporter
Tuesday, 1st February 2022, 8:49 am

Volunteers from the Alford Valley Community Railway (AVCR) have been working hard to reopen the narrow-gage railway for visitors and locals alike to enjoy following its closure in 2017.

Around 1979, a 2ft narrow-gauge railway, brainchild of local railway enthusiast, Mr James Gordon, opened.

The old original station platform came into operation in mid 1980.

Aberdeenshire Council has supported plans to bring the railway back into use.

Known as the Alford Valley Railway, it ran between the centre of Alford to Haughton Country Park about a mile away.

Sadly this railway closed in 2017 due to concerns over the condition of the track and rolling stock.

Following the closure, a public meeting was held to see if the line could be opened again and the AVCR was formed with a mission to reinstate it.

AVCR members had initially applied to the local authority in September 2020 seeking a lease of the former Alford railway station building, engine shed and surrounding grounds.

Since then the group has been working on a phased work plan and has almost reached the target sum required to renovate the station building.

The asset transfer application was considered by members of the Marr Area Committee on Tuesday, January 25.

Marr Area Manager Janelle Clark told members that the group has been in discussions with Alford Golf Club and the Grampian Transport Museum as sections of the track run over their grounds.

She said the golf club was “very supportive” of the railway while the group is in final negotiations with the museum.

Following discussion, the asset transfer was unanimously approved by the committee.

The buildings and surrounding grounds will be leased to AVCR for the next 20 years at a cost of £1 per year.

Councillor Gwyneth Petrie said: “It is good to see this coming forward, I think it’s really exciting for Alford and nice to see it being re-established.”

Fellow councillor Peter Argyle welcomed the asset transfer request.

He said: “It is so well thought through, so well planned and so robust in its thinking and potential delivery, it’s really good to see.”

Commenting after the meeting AVCR vice-chairman Lewis Buchan said: “Alford Valley Community Railway Committee is very happy that the lease has been approved.

"This is a massive goal reached in our project and we can’t wait to get started to the next stages of the project to enable us to bring the railway back for everyone to be able to enjoy.”

The railway project will be carried out in phases to ensure everything is in place before it is up and running again.

Phase one will see refurbishment work carried out on the station, followed by the engine shed and turntable in phase two, the Haughton Park station and car park in phase three.

Work on the railway line itself is expected to be completed in phase four.