AGM Business Matters
The Treasurer, Ron Stevenson, presented the accounts for the financial year, March 2001 to March 2002 and informed the members that a legacy had been separately banked and will be used to mount a campaign against any threatened closure of the Far North Line.
The elections for Office Bearers resulted in John Melling being re-elected as Chairman and John Duncan, Rogart elected as Secretary. There were re-elections for Angus Stewart as Membership Secretary, and Ron Stevenson as Treasurer. Keith Tyler and Roger Piercy were elected as Committee members and Richard Ardern and Stewart Campbell were invited to become co-opted members of the committee. This still leaves a vacancy that would best be filled by someone living in Caithness if a volunteer could be found! An apology was received from our President Lord MacLennan of Rogart.
The meeting was then addressed by John Holwell, Rail Freight Manager for the W H Malcolm Group who spoke on the role of the Malcolm Group in rail freight and his visions for the future. The Malcolm Group decided to enter into the rail freight business in 1998 setting up a depot in Grangemouth and in that time have increased their business workload by the 10% of the business that is rail orientated. He felt that there was great potential for freight for the Far North and elsewhere. He gave credit to the Strategic Rail Authority's proactive approach in trying to dispel the 30 year old perception of the unreliability of rail freight operations.
It is essential that there must be reliable infrastructure since there is a distinct lack of diversionary paths for delayed freight trains and that operators had to do their utmost to have backup plans to ensure reliability to achieve punctuality targets of 90% 'right time arrival'. He felt that it was imperative that their must be co-operation between all those involved in the industry.
John Holwell's confidence in the transfer of vast tonnages from road to rail comes from his interpretation of the effect on road hauliers of the Working Time Directive which could cause an increase of 20% in their costs which can be offset by making more use of rail. The effect of blocked roads by accidents and the density of traffic should also influence the move from road to rail.
The next stage of the meeting should have been a Question and Answer session conducted by Alan Dougall, Operations Manager for ScotRail, Inverness. However the disruption to services between Inverness and Aberdeen caused by flooding meant that he had to put business considerations first! Frank Roach, more than ably, filled the gap in proceedings by bringing us up to date with all the projects that he is involved in as Highland Rail Development Manager for the Highland Rail Partnership.
Opportunity was taken to fill the spare time created to take other business and discussions ranged from the inconsistency of offering only free bus travel to the over 60's and not including rail travellers, to the future consideration by the committee to the Dornoch Crossing.
Financial Statement - year ended 31st March 2002
|Balance at beginning of year||2788||2958|
|Sales of videos||331||-|
|Highland Rail Partnership||100||100|
|Video stock purchase||110||219|
|Tain Commuter publicity||-||140|
|Less: Tax Charge||10||12|