Letting the train take the daily strain.
The fact is I hate driving. I do it - I have to do quite a lot of it - but I hate it. I'm working in Inverness these days. The undesirability of driving down from Fearn first thing in the morning still half-asleep is only exceeded by the deeply unattractive prospect of driving back again well-and-truly knackered after a hard day slumped in front of a hot computer.
But these days there is the commuter train. What a truly wonderful, fantastic, brilliant innovation it is. It really isn't rocket science, but it's taken a decade of campaigning by some very dedicated people. The huge expansion of Inverness, coupled with an increasing awareness that we are steadily poisoning our environment thanks to, amongst other filthy habits, our communal addiction to the internal combustion engine, has led officialdom to sit up and take note that rail travel, on the few lines that do still exist, is a terrific way of moving people about.
In Fearn we're lucky. Our line escaped Beeching's 1960s axe. The station is a mile or so from the village so I drive there, though I am considering cycling in the summer.
The Highland Rail Partnership, funded by Highland Council, the Highlands and Islands LEC network and a host of others, persuaded ScotRail to run the commuter service. This is unsubsidised, is not part of ScotRail's contract and is provided at ScotRail's own commercial risk. It starts from Tain at 7.15 am, picks folk up at Fearn, Invergordon, Alness, Dingwall, Muir of Ord and Beauly and arrives in Inverness about 8.20 am which, in my case, encourages me to get a decent amount of exercise walking up to Beechwood Park in time to start work at 8.45. The train back is the scheduled Wick service which leaves Inverness at 5.30 pm and gets me back home at 6.30 pm.
If you're going to be taking 10 trips over a period of a month, you can buy a Flexipass. Each of my trips then costs £2.20 and I certainly couldn't drive it for that, even on a car that runs on gas. Flexipass trips from the recently reopened Beauly station work out at only 67p a throw.
There's quite a little group of us get on at Feam. Some, like me, work in Inverness. Others are students going to college. And the numbers are growing. Sometimes we even have a parking problem! By the time we get to Inverness, about 70-80 of us pile off the train. And that probably means at least 50 fewer cars coming into the city every day.
Until then, the train's a civilised start to the day, relaxed, stress-free and scenic, enjoying some banter with fellow travellers or just watching the world go by. I can thoroughly recommend it.