Scotland’s First Minister Alex Salmond has announced a £170m investment to improve the Inverness to Aberdeen railway over the next five years.
The improvements are intended to offer more frequent and comfortable journeys to rail passengers in the north and north-east of Scotland.
Salmond said: "These improvements will increase the number of trains, improve signalling and lay the infrastructure necessary for new stations, and will be welcomed by passengers, who will also be pleased to hear of the service enhancements that will see their timetable improve in the coming weeks.
"This investment is all part of our programme to ensure Scotland has a railway fit for the future and our £5bn commitment to rail infrastructure and services is addressing decades of neglect on the railways throughout Scotland."
As part of the scheme of works, initial enhancements will cover redoubling of the track between Aberdeen and Inverurie, platform extensions to accommodate six-car trains at Insch and Elgin, and signalling improvements at Elgin to improve reliability.
Additional improvements include a new relocated station at Forres to help cut journey times, loop extension of the track at Forres and work done to allow for new stations at Dalcross and Kintore.
An hourly service between the cities to reduce the average journey time to around two hours will form part of future phases of the scheme.
In order to increase the number of services this summer, ScotRail has been given the go-ahead to introduce a series of new services from May.
ScotRail managing director Steve Montgomery said: "We are seeing strong demand for Sunday services between Aberdeen and Glasgow. Adding four express trains in each direction will give people many more journey opportunities throughout the day."
Image: First Minister Alex Salmond along with other officials. Photo: courtesy of the Scottish Government.