South and East Sutherland Local Plan
The Highland Council have prepared a final Draft of this Local Plan and have invited comments. Under the title "Roads, Traffic and Transport" it contains the following statement on "Rail Network":
1.50 The Inverness -Wick/Thurso or Far North railway line is important for the economic and social development of the area. Passenger trains bring back-packing tourists in the summer months and freight use is increasing. The development of a Dornoch Rail Link could reduce passenger train journey times between Inverness and Caithness, and so potentially increase use of services. However, the potential loss of the Lairg Loop, with related implications for the affected communities, as well as the environmental impact upon internationally important nature conservation interests and scenic qualities in both Firths are important considerations. The implementation of the project will be for the railway companies to consider for future investment. In the meantime other less costly incentives are to be pursued to improve journey times and greater use of the line by passengers and freight.
1.51 Scope exists to use vacant station buildings for tourist related purposes and to transport more timber and mineral products from the area to distant markets. The safeguarding of redundant or underused sidings/station yards at Ardgay, Brora, Golspie, Helmsdale and Kinbrace will be important with regard to the latter. The Council is encouraging Railtrack to invest in its existing infrastructure for freight purposes, including the provision of loading banks to assist timber extraction. The forestry industry is also being encouraged to use narrow gauge lines to allow for the removal of timber to the mainline from more distant forests.