The UK’s Network Rail (NR) has appointed BAM as the principal contractor for the £170m upgrade of Scotland’s Aberdeen-Inverness line, as part of the ScotRail Alliance.

A partnership between Abellio ScotRail and NR, ScotRail Alliance is committed to making journeys faster and easier and improving connections with buses and other form of public transport.

BAM will be working in partnership with Aecom, CH2M, Stobart Rail and Siemens for the project, being funded by the Scottish Government.

"BAM’s appointment is the first step on a journey that will deliver significant benefits for the north and north-east of Scotland."

The upgrade will see the introduction of half-hourly commuter services between Aberdeen and Inverurie, as well as additional peak services between Inverness and Elgin.

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Ground investigation, site surveys and vegetation clearance are already underway, with main construction scheduled to begin in 2016 with the first phase expected to be completed by 2019.

Scotland Infrastructure, Investment and Cities cabinet secretary Keith Brown said: "Today marks the Scottish Government’s landmark investment package of £170m to improve a key route connecting both northern cities, which will make journeys shorter, more frequent and more comfortable for those who use this important line regularly.

"This project is especially valuable for the region for, as well as the clear benefits to passengers and freight users, it will also support jobs and growth, providing an economic boost to the cities and communities along the entire length of the route."

Scope of work under the deal will include double-tracking the 26km line between Aberdeen and Inverurie, building a new station at Forres and straightening the alignment, and platform extensions at Insch and Elgin to accommodate longer trains.

Signalling systems along the route will be upgraded and infrastructure installed to allow new stations to be built at Dalcross and Kintore.

ScotRail Alliance managing director Phil Verster said: "BAM’s appointment is the first step on a journey that will deliver significant benefits for the north and north-east of Scotland.

"Reduced journey times and the ability to run bigger trains with more seats will transform customers’ experience of rail travel."

BAM operations director Jerry Dickson said: "Together with our partners AECOM, CH2M, Stobart Rail and Siemens, we are looking forward to commencing work on the Aberdeen to Inverness Enhancement Programme.

"This essential programme of works will improve connectivity between the major cities of Aberdeen and Inverness, with wider enhancements for the local communities in the north of Scotland."