Train Service Aims for 2004
Four Rail Operators have been short-listed for the Scotland's Passenger Rail Franchise for 2004. They are Arriva, First, Dutch Railways and National Express.
This paper sets out the main aspirations, aims and objectives of the Friends of the Far North Line for the provision of passenger services both on and in relation to the Far North line. We hope that it will assist applicants for the passenger railway franchise in Scotland when formulating their bids.
The Far North railway connects the economy of Caithness (and Orkney) through small towns, villages and townships to Inverness, the inner Moray Firth and beyond. Freight traffic is well established and is growing. Tourism is a significant part of passenger use and has a potential for growth. Part funding is in place towards the introduction of a two hourly passenger train service between Tain and Inverness, which could contribute to shortening journey times to and from Caithness.
1. Requirements for future rolling stock.
- Powerful trains with good gearing and adhesion appropriate for use on steep gradients and tight curves.
- Heavy enough to be effective in all adverse weather conditions.
- To have appropriate tourist viewing and luggage facilities on all Highland routes.
- Must be capable of being maintained in Inverness.
- Comfortable seating sympathetically designed, adequately spaced with sufficient leg-room and with proper seat/window alignment.
- Draught free passenger cabins.
- Provision for panoramic windows with viewing both forward and rearward.
- Three carriage sets.
- Space for 6 bicycles per train set.
- Access both into and on the sets for wheelchairs, and likewise catering trolleys.
- Sufficient space to accommodate rucksacks and other bulky items of baggage.
- Provision of two efficient and reliable lavatories per train of a design that makes them easily cleaned and maintained. In particular attention should be paid to regular emptying.
- There should be devised and enforced a proper and efficient system for maintaining and cleaning the units and the design should take account of this.
- All units are to be provided with efficient, reliable and compatible radio transmitting/receiving equipment capable of use throughout their journeys.
We express the hope that we will see an introduction of trains, which meet these criteria early in the franchise, the more so because of the inadequacies of the present 158's. These in the main lack passenger comfort and have poor reliability.
2. Passenger train services.
- Maintenance of the three weekday Caithness/Inverness daily return journeys together with the two existing Sunday services.
- Introduction of a late Friday evening service from Inverness to Caithness.
- Introduction of rail/ferry connections at Thurso reflecting the increased pattern of ferry services, with the introduction of a dedicated connecting bus service between Thurso station and Scrabster harbour.
- Maintenance of the weekday commuter service from Tain to Inverness.
- Early implementation of the Invernet proposals between Inverness and Tain.
- Facilitate the introduction of connecting bus services from the Seaboard villages to Fearn station, likewise the Dornoch to Tain bus service to reflect the increased rail service frequency under Invernet.
- Consider the reduction of the number of stops on the journey south of Tain by trains to and from Wick, these stops to be made in future by local Invernet services and those on the Kyle line.
- Enhance the connections at Inverness with the introduction of an hourly service through Moray to Aberdeen.
- Enhance services south of Inverness by the introduction of sub 3-hour express services to Edinburgh and Glasgow.
- Provide a through train service such that the first morning service south from Wick travels to Edinburgh, and the last regular service north from Inverness to Wick, originates in Edinburgh.
- Join in facilitating the provision of a new station to serve the expanding residential population of Conon/Maryburgh.
- To be open to consider other stations within the Invernet area e.g. Evanton.
- To give consideration to the provision of a station/halt at Halkirk.
- To maintain staffing levels at Thurso and Wick and in conjunction with the introduction of Invernet services to provide enhanced staffing levels at Dingwall and Tain.
- To provide car-parking facilities at Invergordon, Fearn and Tain stations utilising available land resources.
- Ensure that adequate free 20 minute pick-up/set-down car parking at Inverness station is provided.
- To ensure that waiting facilities at all sizes of station should be wind and watertight and preferably heated. Further, there should be provision of telephone contact with a controller in Inverness for use at times of late running.
- At key stations disabled access must be provided where presently none exists or where provision is inadequate.
- Consideration to be given to involving both local residents and other interested parties in the support of local stations.
4. Infrastructure improvements.
- In conjunction with Network Rail expedite the provision of a curve at Georgemas taking trains between Thurso and the south without reversing at Georgemas.
- Improve and upgrade crossings so as to shorten journey times.
- Require the provision of reliable signalling throughout the route.
5. Fares and marketing.
- The fare structure must give due weighting to the average per capita income within the catchment area of the Far North line.
- Maintain the Highland Railcard's fifty percent concession for local residents.
- Introduce day return fares from Tain south through to Edinburgh and Glasgow.
- Marketing should be targeted in advance of the introduction of new services/facilities.
- Marketing should be focused at communities and users along the line and areas of activity may be identified where the FoFNL may assist.
Our committee can offer some wider understanding beyond the operation of a railway. We hope that the content of this document will provide the basis for further discussion with franchise applicants. We would welcome such discussion should the opportunity arise.