A User's View of Invernet
As a frequent user of the Far North line, I was delighted to have been asked to travel on the inaugural Invernet service from Lairg on 12th December 2005. The whole Invernet package greatly increases travel choices in and around the Inner Moray Firth: when you are sitting on the commuter service from Lairg as it approaches Inverness station through Merkinch, you can look back across the Kessock Bridge to the Black Isle. What you see is traffic gridlocked over the bridge into the distance, and it brings home that sense of having an alternative transport choice, which at that time of day is probably just as quick as taking the car. Of course, for people who don't have access to a car, the opportunities are greater still, and I increasingly notice passengers using the services generally to get to and from other places on the line, not only Inverness.
Having used the commuter service a couple of times since its inaugural journey, I think it needs better pricing structures, such as Flexipass or weekly tickets, which are not universally available, and the availability of tea or coffee on the train at that hour of the morning would be wonderful.
Putting Invernet together has been a complex process, with no less than eight agencies providing support and funding, including three local enterprise companies and Highland Council, as well as the Scottish Executive. The core work has come from HITRANS and the Highland Rail Partnership. I very much hope their commitment will prove to be a far-sighted one, resulting in greater accessibility for the public, less congestion on our roads, and further service developments in the future.