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Campaign group welcomes Caithness/Inverness rail report

By Matt Leslie

A ScotRail train heading out of Inverness on the far north line. Picture: Gary Anthony
A ScotRail train heading out of Inverness on the far north line. Picture: Gary Anthony

A CAMPAIGN group has hailed a report that recommends improvement to the railway service between Caithness and Inverness.

Friends of the Far North Line (FoFNL) says a report by the Far North Review Team (FNRT) will deliver a number of benefits along the route and also lays out a potential programme of further improvements that are now under early development work.

Achievements to date include improved safety and journey time benefits, as well as customer service enhancements.

One key recommended improvement from the report is the construction of a passing loop near Lentran, north of Inverness. Also mentioned are line-speed improvement, enhancements to user-worked level crossings and to make the "request to stop" service more efficient.

FoFNL convener Ian Budd said: "The final report on the work of the Far North Line Review Team marks a very important point in the process of improving the far north line for passengers and freight.

"Many incremental improvements have already been made. The proposed new service pattern, which will give much improved journey opportunities, depends on the construction of a passing loop near Lentran, a few miles north of Inverness on the busiest section of the line.

"This is something that FoFNL has campaigned for for many years and it is very gratifying to see it in the final stages of development.

"Overall FoFNL is very pleased with the outcomes of the review team. There are many smaller improvements which will combine to make a significant difference.

"The Far North Line Review team was set up in response to issues raised by FoFNL's 2016 consultants' report and proved to be an extremely effective vehicle for identifying and tackling the many problems being experienced on the line.

"The workings of the group were exemplary and it was a pleasure to be involved. FoFNL is delighted that the review team's task is now complete and that work on implementing its recommendations is about to proceed.

"Not mentioned in the report is replacement rolling stock. The current trains are nearly life-expired and will need to be replaced by electric traction in one form or another. Once this is done, and the review team's plans implemented, the far north line will have a much more efficient and reliable service."

Bill Reeve, Transport Scotland’s director of rail and chair of the review group, said: "The group has been an exemplar of good practice with the industry and local stakeholders each contributing expertise and knowledge to deliver a shared ambition to maximise the potential of the far north line for passengers, communities and businesses along the route.

"By building on the achievements to date, the far north line will yield economic benefits from improved services and infrastructure by encouraging more rail use by passengers and by freight operators."

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