A new year, a new chairman and eventually the start of a new franchise is a good time to look forward. We are all delighted that the Scottish Executive have come forward with the remaining funding required to launch the Invernet project giving a Tain to Inverness service every two hours.
ScotRail will now recruit the extra crews and finalise the timings. We trust that whoever is the new franchise holder will obtain the extra unit and commence operating the new service early in 2005. We are confident that the "All Day Tains" service will be a success and we will continue to press for the reopening of Conon station.
The existing early morning Tain commuter service has been very successful with passenger numbers around the 100 mark. On the Friday before Christmas, it was good to see 90 passengers and a dog enjoy the party laid on by Frank Roach and Chris Kendall with help from CCG (caterers), ScotRail and Lorraine Mann on guitar.
Stewart Campbell has been working hard to look after and improve Alness station. We would like to help inspire other communities to do the same for their stations. Can we dream up more ideas for unused buildings? The Moncktons have given us a cosy tearoom at Dingwall Station and Lairg Station is now the Highland Rail Partnership office. Perhaps craft workers or second hand booksellers whose business is partly mail order could take over others? What about a drop in centre of some kind or an MSP's constituency office or a Highland Council service point? Can you think of other ideas?
2004 promises to be a challenging year for the railway industry, particularly in keeping costs under control. For FoFNL, we are currently honing our policies to keep them up to date so that we can engage with the new franchise holder to press for improved services and an assured future for our line.
As we welcome Alistair Roy to the committee, I would like to say thank you to committee members for all their hard work, not least the office bearers and particularly John Melling for his years in the chair. It is good to have an influx of new members and ideas every so often. Your committee is always keen to hear your ideas and the newsletter is the best place to share them with everyone else. The new format of a longer AGM seems to have worked quite well. What do you think? Please let us know.