Inverness-Aberdeen railway investment of £170m announced
A £170m investment package has been confirmed by First Minister Alex Salmond for the Inverness to Aberdeen railway.
Over the next five years, there will be a redoubling of the track between Aberdeen and Inverurie.
Platforms at Insch and Elgin will be extended to accommodate six-car trains.
Signalling improvements will be made at Elgin, the station at Forres relocated and work done so new stations can be built at Kintore and Dalcross.
Kintore's original station was closed in the 1960s. Dalcross is close to Inverness Airport.
Future phases of the scheme will support an hourly service between the cities with average journey time reducing to about two hours, it was announced.
ScotRail also said it was preparing to introduce an "enhanced timetable" to increase services.
Transport Scotland has given ScotRail the go-ahead for the new services from 18 May, including an hourly Aberdeen-Glasgow service between 09:00 and 18:00.'Strong demand'
Mr Salmond said the Scottish government was determined to support Scotland's railways.
He said: "These improvements - which will increase the number of trains, improve signalling and lay the infrastructure necessary for new stations, 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."
Steve Montgomery, managing director of ScotRail, 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."
David Dickson, Network Rail acting route managing director for Scotland, said increasing capacity across the network and offering passengers a wider range of services was a "key priority".