Campaigners seeking the upgrading of the A90 from Ellon to Peterhead have been given a major boost.
It has been claimed that European funding could be used to pay for the dual carriageway project.
The possibility emerged in talks between Conservative MEP Ian Duncan and Professor Peter Balazs, co-ordinator of the TEN-T Connecting Europe programme.
There had been concern that funding was only available as far north as Edinburgh, but Prof Balazs clarified that while the North-east was not part of the priority corridor, applications would be considered if they met the necessary criteria.
Dr Duncan said: “While funding cannot be guaranteed, the remarks from Professor Balazs are a step in the right direction.
“I will now be seeking a meeting with the UK and Scottish Governments, as it will be for them to drive forward the funding application and provide the necessary co-financing.
“I will push for a joined-up approach so that we can make the best possible application.”
Calls for the upgrading of the A90 north of Ellon have been intensifying with work getting under way on the AWPR/Balmedie-Tipperty project.
Local councillor Gillian Owen, who has spearheaded the Why Stop at Ellon? campaign, is delighted with the latest developments on possible funding,
She said: “This has been a huge team effort. The work is not over, the first challenge has been successfully
negotiated and I am sure there will be many more, but we can all be pleased with this news.”
Councillor Owen also praised the hundreds of people who had supported the dualling campaign through Facebook.
Earlier this year, transport minister Derek Mackay said in a Parliamentary answer there were “no plans” for a dual carriageway north of Ellon. prompting fresh calls for a full upgrade.
A Scottish Government spokesman said this week: “While we welcome any funding opportunities aimed at improving Scotland’s motorway and trunk road network, our focus is on ensuring the existing major projects are delivered to bring all of the benefits to the people of the North-east.
“We are addressing years of under investment in North-east transport infrastructure with construction under way of the AWPR/Balmedie to Tipperty project.
“This investment will bring an additional £6 billion to the North-east economy, generating around 1500 construction jobs, improving safety and cutting congestion for road users and local communities.”
The spokesman added that the A90 was recognised as an important route for local businesses, particularly along the Energetica Corridor.
He said Nestrans - the transport partnership for Aberdeen City and Shire - are currently undertaking an appraisal which will consider the strategic transport connections on the A90 from Fraserburgh and Peterhead to Aberdeen.