Terrible service on the Far North line

6 August 2017

Abellio/Scotrail needs to look again at its contingency measures after admitting that a train service on the Far North Line was cancelled on the 10th, 11th and 12th July.

Highlands and Islands Labour MSP Rhoda Grant said she found it hard to agree with the train company when it said “we maintain our trains to a very high standard” after the 17.12 Inverness to Ardgay service was cancelled on the three consecutive days.

A constituent contacted Mrs Grant to complain about the poor service.

The company explained:

  • On Monday 10th July the train was cancelled due to a transmission fault and, despite the best efforts of its maintenance team at Inverness, it was taken out of service
  • On Tuesday 11th July it was cancelled due to poor performance of the train scheduled to work that service
  • On Wednesday 12th July it was cancelled again due to the shortage of trains at Inverness due to an earlier train failure at Wick. Replacement transport was provided on all three days.


“I realise that faults do happen from time to time, but it’s hard not to conclude that there’s something amiss when it happens three days in a row,” said Mrs Grant.

“Train failures are surely not unrelated to maintenance standards? One wonders if there is an over-provision of spares being kept in the south to the detriment of services in the north?

“There are fewer trains on this line to start with so any cancellation is more disruptive to passengers than in an area where there are more frequent services. Again Abellio/Scotrail needs to do better to keep and attract more passengers.”

In a separate case, Mrs Grant asked Highland Council what was happening to replace what is thought to be the last Postbus route in Britain, which ceases on 19 August.

The 134 Postbus service runs from Tongue – Lairg but Royal Mail is ending the service and the community is eager to have a replacement.

The council’s Chief Executive Steve Barron says that it is looking to replace the service and is consulting with local councillors and the community to see what’s needed.

Unfortunately, the work will not be completed by 19 August but the local authority aims to have a replacement “as soon as practicable”.

“It’s sad to see the end of the era, especially in such a remote, rural area of the Highlands but it does sound hopeful that a service will continue in some shape or form,” added Mrs Grant.