Annual General Meeting 2004
20th November, Beauly
The Chairman, Richard Ardern, welcomed everyone and thanked them for attending the meeting.
The minutes of the previous meeting were deemed to be a true record and after a question from John Moore relating to the distribution of the AGM minutes it was decided to circulate future AGM minutes with the January newsletter and the Statement of Accounts with the September newsletter.
Matters arising from the minutes would be taken during the general discussion and the Chairmen attempted to get some feedback on the format of the AGM, the choice of speakers, the style of the newsletter and the format of a summer excursion and/or winter lecture. A useful discussion followed that would be considered by the new committee.
Richard Ardern then presented his report in which he commented on the success of the new format of the AGM. After summarising the activities of the committee he went on to discuss some of the ideas contained within our policy document. Recently we have suggested that a Highland Counties Rail Track Scheme might be appropriate along the lines of the old Crofting Counties Road Scheme which did so much for the economy of the area by widening single track roads. He reported that plans are in hand for alterations to the Highland 158 units and referred to our aspirations for rolling stock on our line, a message he has put forward to the surprising number of extra meetings he has attended in his duties as Chairman. Richard thanked the members of the committee for their work and included the contribution made by Frank Roach.
The Treasurer, Ron Stevenson tabled the annual financial statement. This was examined and approved and the business of the meeting continued with the election of Office bearers. The positions of chairman, treasurer and membership secretary are unchanged with Richard Ardern, Ron Stevenson and Angus Stewart being unopposed. There were no nominations for the post of Secretary, John Duncan having indicated his desire to stand down and the position of Secretary remains vacant. There were only two nominations for the executive committee and Alistair Roy and Roger Piercy were elected nem con. The following members indicated a willingness to be co-opted, Stewart Campbell, John Moore, Keith Tyler and Les Turner.
On the conclusion of the business meeting Roger Piercy gave a PowerPoint presentation of photographs in an imaginary 30 minute journey from Wick/Thurso to Inverness. The photographs had been accumulated from donations and his own efforts whilst travelling up and down the line. The meeting closed for lunch.
After lunch the Chairman introduced Ron McAulay, Route Director, Scotland, for Network Rail. Mr. McAulay started by giving a brief background to his new career in railways in an organisation, Network Rail, recently born out of Railtrack; a new 'boy' in a 'new' organisation who had to embark on a steep learning curve. His talk covered the aspects of:
- the organisational changes within Network Rail that saw maintenance coming in-house and the adoption of a national functional structure
- the White Paper on Rail Review which brought about the strategic decision making and franchise award process coming to the Scottish Executive, Network Rail becoming a single point of accountability for rail performance, and the ORR assuming responsibility for rail safety
- key projects for the Highlands including the Huntly footbridge repairs, track improvements at Gartly on the Inverness - Aberdeen line, bridgeworks at Daies between Insch and Huntly, and the utilisation of platforms 3 and 4 at Perth station for Inverness trains. Unfortunately no projects are located on the Far North Lin signalling issues where the Inverness Signalling Centre requires modernising to cope with the various methods of signalling especially with RETB showing its age; and the fact that it acts as a 'call centre' for some 160 level crossing telephones
- the challenges associated with engineering and maintenance on the Far North Line brought about by the geographical scope of the routes, the effect of neighbouring activities/landscape and the age of the assets. It was interesting to learn that the standard of track associated with the Inverness area is better than the national standard for Scotland which in turn is better than the UK standard; the adverse weather in August which caused a severe increase in minutes lost due to washouts of track and bridges throughout Scotland
- and his talk finished on a subject close to our interest in the poor performance of services on the line, the infamous black boxes
In conclusion Mr McAulay acknowledged that he was very aware of our problems on the Far North Line and hoped that in future some useful solutions could be found. The Chairman thanked Mr McAulay for a most interesting talk and presented him with a bouquet of flowers for his wife.
Frank Roach then took the platform and after reminding us that it was FoFNL's 10th AGM gave us his usual very full round-up of the year's activities on the line and what the future holds for the line and its feeder routes. He has received an assurance that the East Coast Main line operation with the daily HST from Inverness is safe whoever is awarded the new franchise. The Edinburgh Airport rail link will influence operations in the north but it is hoped some benefits might be realised. Improvements at Invernet Stations are being planned and there is confidence that the daily commuter train could start from Lairg to assist commuters travelling from Sutherland. Unfortunately the Freight situation is far from as up-beat as reported at last year's AGM but Frank assured us that there was some significant interest being shown in new freight projects. The sale of the Safeway stores in the Far North to Morrisons has put a question mark over the delivery of containers. The use of Class 170 Turbostars on all Highland Main Line services will mean that the Far North services will be strengthened with spare Class 158s. This change to 170s also means that there will be no through working of services hopefully giving the benefit of less time wasted at Inverness due to reversing the train and better on board services due to the train starting in a cleaner condition from Inverness.
In the general discussion that followed the Chairman intimated that a meeting of the Rail Passenger Council (Scotland) will be held in Dingwall in May. Other subjects discussed were cheap flights vs. rail travel; the Dornoch Link and the suggestion that FoFNL were still not sufficiently proactive.
Financial Statement - year ended 31st March 2004
|Balance at beginning of year||4037||9294|
|Fixed Rate Bond||5000||5000|
|Sales of Videos||48||96|
|Sales of Books||-||135|
|Highland Rail Partnership||200||250|
|Contribution of Iron Road Book||250||-|
|Purchase of Iron Road Books||-||162|
|Attendance at Conferences||-||126|
|Contribution to Frank Spaven Memorial||-||100|