A £218 million plan to cut rail journey times will result in “mere seconds of improvement” across Tayside and Fife, a new report has revealed.
The planned upgrade of the line at at Usan near Montrose now faces being scrapped, a decade after it was first mooted.
The single track stretch was identified as a reason for uncompetitive Dundee to Aberdeen rail journey times as far back as 2003.
The one-and-a-half mile section of single track between Usan and the South Esk viaduct at Montrose Basin, means that at certain times trains have to slow down and wait for others to pass.
The promise to dual it was included in proposals to cut journeys between Aberdeen and Edinburgh by 20 minutes which were first unveiled by the SNP in 2008.
However, a meeting of the Transport Scotland reference group overseeing the project has now heard the planned £218m investment will only scrape a two-minute improvement.
Transport Scotland’s head of rail Bill Reeve spoke to the city deal committee in Aberdeen on Friday where he revealed the much touted improvements around Montrose Basin had been found to offer no time benefits.
The meeting heard the massive piece of Angus infrastructure has been effectively binned.
North East region Scottish Conservative MSP Liam Kerr said the government had “over-promised and under-delivered” to the people of Angus.
“A decade of promises will result in mere seconds of improvement across Tayside and Fife,” he said.
“There clearly was little to no work done on what we would actually get for £200 million.
“Further, much of what is being proposed sounds like the kind of upgrades that Network Rail should be doing as a matter of course.
“I will be tabling questions at parliament immediately to get to the bottom of this fiasco.”
It is understood the group will now consider looking at alternative approaches to determine whether there could be a better return for investment.
A Transport Scotland spokesman said: “This key route connecting Aberdeen with the Central Belt is already benefiting from significant investment.
“Today’s meeting was an opportunity to brief the Aberdeen City Region Deal Joint Committee on the findings of the rail report commissioned by the reference group.
“In addition, the consensus across the group was that further work is required to identify the maximum possible benefits achievable for the £200m available. While it is too early to say what the outcomes of that will be, all within the reference group remain committed to dedicating the time and resource necessary to reach the right solution as soon as is practicable.”
Mr Reeve said a “revolution in rail” expected by next year would reduce journey time,s pointing to new high speed intercity trains and improvements elsewhere in the country.
The £218m improvement works – first unveiled by the SNP in 2008 – were announced again on the same day as the UK Government’s £250m Tay Cities Deal in 2016.
At the time then infrastructure secretary Keith Brown said the cash injection would involve “infrastructure improvements, double tracking at key pinch points, and other opportunities to improve journey times to the central belt and on to London”.
He said the package would be “providing an economic boost to the cities and communities of the north-east.”