18 October 2016
Highlands and Islands Labour MSP Rhoda Grant is supporting the recommendations of Tony Glazebrook, an independent consultant brought in by Friends of the Far North Line (FoFNL) as a result of the group’s “exasperation” at the volume of chronic problems on the route.
Mrs Grant, also Vice-President of the FoFNL, said the need for a Lentran Loop, which she has always supported, is stressed again by the consultant who highlights the end-to-end journey time from Inverness to Thurso is typically 3hours 50mins and to Wick 4hrs 22mins.
“The argument for having the loop, creating a section of double track between Clachnaharry Swing Bridge and Beauly Station, has been made for many years. It should stop late running trains and prevent late running early in the day from affecting follow-on services,” explained Mrs Grant.
There is also a recommendation for stakeholders to determine the value of a passing loop at Kinbrace, especially in the light of a proposed Kinbrace siding for timber loading for the Branchliner project which plans to take timber by rail instead of road.
“One of the many good ideas contained in the report is that the cost of delays on the Far North Line, and the many missed connections for passengers travelling into Inverness, should be identified and quantified over the past five years and perhaps used to justify financially some improvements on the line,” she said.
“Also, I back re-examining HiTRANS’ proposed improved timetable plus a different system to be brought in at station request stops. Presently there is no means of warning drivers that people wish to board so the driver always reduces speed in case he needs to stop.
“What is recommended is a number of options to provide early warning including an advanced warning light to be displayed to the driver at braking distance each side of the station, to indicate the need to stop.
“The request stop would be equipped with suitable signage, a “Request” plunger and an indicator driven from the remote equipment to show that the stop request had been ‘accepted’.”
Mrs Grant, who thanked ScotRail and Network Rail staff for their help in producing the survey, said the need for lineside vegetation to be brought under control would also help mitigate delays for the service.
“Poor performance and unreliability over the past three years have driven passengers away from the Far North Line. It is about time the Scottish Government listened to the public and put some money into the major improvements needed,” added Mrs Grant.