View From The Signal Box
Publicity for FoFNL or Eat your heart out, Eurostar!
In the build up to the AGM your committee decided to publicise the AGM by distributing flyers on the Commuter train. However events took an interesting turn with publicity being given to Phil McGarry, RMT's Scottish Regional Organiser. With a banner headline of "Top union in backing for firth rail link" in The Press and Journal and "Union warning on North Line" in the Caithness Courier plus a contribution from Rob Gibson MSP stating "Rail campaigners urged to be more ambitious" we knew that the old chestnut of the Dornoch Link was once again being aired. Mr McGarry claimed typical journey times between Inverness and Wick/Thurso are between 3 and 4 hours and that a saving of 45 minutes (however, see item in next newsletter) could be achieved with the direct link and ultimately the aim must be to reduce the journey time to around the 2 hour mark.
It must be upsetting for supporters of the principle of the Dornoch Link to see such ill-thought out figures being used and the nonsensical images they create. The actual longest journey is 3 hours 53 minutes if the 8 minute standing delay at Lairg is removed and the shortest is 3 hours 49 minutes which provides a bench-mark average speed of 42 mph. The overall mileage of Wick to Inverness is 162 miles and the current mileage between Tain and Golspie is 30 miles and assume that this is reduced to 18 miles for the direct link then we can begin to calculate some speeds that have to be achieved. A reduction of 45 minutes from the shortest current time of 51 minutes between Tain and Golspie requires the train to travel at 180 mph! To achieve the magic 2 hour overall journey time will require a non-stop average speed of 75 mph. I would suggest that the residents of Evanton would have a lot more to complain about than a few perceived noises from shunting locomotives at Highland Deephaven compared with the passing of a new generation of high speed trains rushing past their houses. At least Rob Gibson's piece drew attention to the AGM being held in Beauly.
After the AGM a detailed press release was issued along with a copy of the ScotRail press release covering Peter Cotton's address and a pen picture of the of ScotRail's achievements. These resulted in very good coverage south of Golspie with the Wick and Thurso papers being notable by their absence. The fullest coverage came from the Ross-shire Journal whose eye-catching bill-board "Proposed re-opening for Black Isle Station" stopped your Editor in his tracks outside the Culbokie Post Office. A little journalistic licence had been applied, which worked, to publicise the Invernet proposals with the suggestion that the re-opening of a station in Conon Bridge would make commercial sense. Our new Chairman amply demonstrated an ability to use phrases that would catch the attention of the media; his phrase "it just shows what the railways can do" was picked up by all the papers. Also picked up was the intention of the new committee to fully discuss the Dornoch Link. The Ross-shire Journal researched the Conon Bridge proposal and quoted representatives of Highlands and Islands Enterprise and ScotRail supporting the initiatives. Eddie Toal, Media Relations Manager for ScotRail said "We are supportive of the Friends of the Far North Line who have enthusiasm and the local knowledge and if they were to put an initial proposal together then we would certainly look at it." With a friend like that let's hope ScotRail are around for a few more years.