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Network Rail to install 'request to stop' kiosks at Caithness and Sutherland railway stations on the Far North Line

By Philip Murray

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The eight new kiosks which will be installed at request stops in Caithness and Sutherland.
The eight new kiosks which will be installed at request stops in Caithness and Sutherland.

RAIL passengers at two Caithness request stops will no longer have to wave for the driver to stop at their platform once new kiosks become operational next summer, Network Rail has revealed.

Work is under way at eight stations on the Far North Line to install ‘request to stop kiosks’ which will allow passengers to access the next planned service.

The kiosks are part of a broader package of improvements to the line’s radio signalling system, worth approximately £5 million.

Scotscalder and Altnabreac will have the new systems installed, as well as Kinbrace, Kildonan, Dunrobin Castle, Rogart, Invershin and Culrain in Sutherland.

This will enhance the current operation of the railway by allowing passengers to request the next train stop at these stations using a radio system linked to the driver’s cab. Due to their locations, patronage at these stations is amongst the lowest in the UK and consequently they operate on a ‘request to stop’ basis – requiring the need to hand signal approaching trains to stop.

The addition of the kiosks will allow passengers arriving at the stations to make their requests direct to the driver’s cab – removing the need to hand-signal, and introduces a system which Network Rail claims more user-friendly and will improve operational performance.

This new equipment is planned to go live across all eight ‘request-to-stop’ stations on the line from next summer. Scotscalder has been selected as a trial location where a period of dual running will extensively test the reliability of the enhanced system prior to it being rolled-out.

As well as the installation of the ‘request to stop kiosks’ Network Rail will also upgrade existing radio communication masts and antenna and install new equipment at Muir of Ord and Wick stations to enhance radio coverage.

It claims this will improve the reliability and resilience of the communications network on the route, which will improve the overall passenger experience for those travelling on the line.

Cara Healy, Network Rail’s development manager for the work on the Far North Line, said: “Enhancing the radio network will make the experience of using ‘request stop’ stations more straight forward and will cater for the increased number of tourists visiting the area, particularly during the Covid-19 pandemic.

“We are working through the winter to get this equipment ready to ‘go live’ ahead of the busier summer months. This new system will make it easier to use some of the most remote stations on our network and hopefully help encourage more people to travel into the Highlands to walk, climb, cycle and sightsee.”

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