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Thurso pupils’ school trip hit by rail cancellation

By Iain Grant

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A Thurso primary’s end-of-term trip to a nature reserve was almost scuppered after the train they planned to take failed to run.

Not only did they turn up to find the 8.34 on Tuesday morning had been cancelled but that they were not offered a replacement bus which could accommodate their 40-plus party.

The school party had hoped to arrive at Forsinard by train.
The school party had hoped to arrive at Forsinard by train.

A teacher went to the next-door Stagecoach depot and was able to arrange a hire for the return trip to RSPB’s Flows nature reserve in Forsinard.

Other would-be train passengers took up ScotRail’s offer to travel by Stagecoach instead.

Thurso community councillor Colin Johnston, who had a grandson on the trip, said: “The big problem was the lack of information when they arrived and found the train was cancelled. No-one was telling them anything.”

Speaking at last week’s community council meeting, Mr Johnston said the reliability of the Far North Line recently has been “terrible”.

Chair Thelma Mackenzie believed staff shortages have led to a number of services being cancelled recently.

The 8.02am Wick/Inverness service was pulled after a ScotRail driver in Wick reported an engine failure.

By 6.40, the cancellation was flagged up on the ScotRail app and website, live timetables and on JourneyCheck.

Service delivery director Mark Ilderton said: “We are absolutely committed to delivering the best possible service on the Far North Line, and everyone at ScotRail is working hard to improve performance.

“We apologise to customers who experienced a cancellation on Tuesday. On this occasion we were able to provide ticket acceptance for affected customers on Stagecoach North services.

“Customers can keep informed of service status by checking the ScotRail app, website or JourneyCheck. A Help Point is also available at Thurso station where customers can speak to our dedicated agents for the latest travel information.

“We know how frustrating it is when delays or cancellations occur, and when that does happen, anyone delayed by 30 minutes or more is entitled to compensation and can claim on the ScotRail website or mobile app.”

Pressed on the school party having to book a bus, Mr Ildrtton said: “Due to demand by the tourism industry in the Highlands, and cruise liner demand in peak season, short-notice bus replacements for Highland services can be an issue.”

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