Since the turn of the year I have been actively pursuing the issues I wrote about in January. I have had a meeting in Glasgow with Ron McAulay (Network Rail Route Director, Scotland) to discuss the various speed restrictions along the FNL, and I hope to meet safety regulators later this year. I have enjoyed seeing the line for myself (from the cab) and I'm grateful to John Yellowlees of FSR for arranging this. I hope to meet senior FSR managers to discuss the vexed issue of rolling stock provision.
FoFNL is on record as saying that the 158s now in use are inappropriate given the need to compete with the car. We have to decide whether to say that any existing rolling stock is inadequate for a uniquely-used line like ours (and thereby wave good-bye to being taken seriously by the industry) or to say that we are aware of cost pressures, but that we think there is a better way of delivering our service (which will still be short of ideal). Your Committee has thought about this, and has decided that the latter stance is preferable, as it is more likely to deliver a benefit than merely shouting in press releases about how awful things are. We shall be working on our detailed policy over the summer.
I attended the AGM of Highland Rail Partnership in Perth, and was pleased to hear addresses from two important industry figures (FSR and Transport Scotland), both of whom talked a lot of common sense. It's early days, but my impression is that Transport Scotland could be the most important development in Scotland's rail industry for decades. Watch this space.
As well as these industry meetings I've also met John Thurso MP, and MSPs Jamie Stone, Rob Gibson and Maureen Macmillan. All have agreed to work with FoFNL, both in Parliament and elsewhere, to advance the causes we all share - a better rail service. I have made contact with as many Community Councils as I can find email addresses for - which I know to be incomplete - and plan to meet as many as are interested over the summer.
I was invited to be the principal rail voice on the newly-formed Caithness Transport Forum. This body is composed of Councillors, some transport providers and others with an input to the formation of a Caithness strategy within the Highland Council overall transport strategy for the next 5 years. I make sure that FoFNL is at the heart of the rail part of these discussions.
Most of all this is merely work in progress, and this introduction is no more than a progress report. I hope to have some achievements to report at the AGM, but if I don't it won't be for the want of trying!