Fofnl Newsletter Reaches The Heart of UK Government
FoFNL Vice President, John Melling, and Committee Member, Richard Ardern, met GB Minister of State for Railways, Lord Adonis, in Inverness on Friday 18 April. Lord Adonis was on his well publicised Round Britain Tour from Truro to Inverness using a Standard Class all line railrover ticket. The small group also included Frank Roach and John Rennilson, who recently retired as Highland Council's Director of Planning, and the meeting was organised by Danny Alexander MP for Inverness.
Lord Adonis arrived hungry off the Highland Chieftain having left Carlisle at 07.13 and travelled via Middlesbrough. He now has first hand experience of the withdrawal of the restaurant car facility to standard class passengers by National Express. Despite his long journey he proved to be a good listener for 90 minutes and was still chatting to Frank at 10pm and would not have long to sleep before his early departure on the 04.57 to Edinburgh via Aberdeen. We all had to admire his stamina and his determination to experience the railway as it is, warts and all.
We were able to explain to him the serious constraints imposed by the single line railways in the Highlands, the considerable scope for speeding up services, and the potential for more freight services. He seemed particularly interested in improving journey times to Edinburgh, in the growth in passenger numbers following the introduction of the Invernet services, and in ensuring that the railway got a chance to carry nuclear traffic from Caithness. It was particularly helpful to be able to give him a copy of our January Newsletter to explain how the FNL could be speeded up, the improvements that could be made on the line to Aberdeen, and the statistics for passenger growth north of Inverness.
He also went away with a copy of the bullet points reproduced below.
NORTH OF SCOTLAND RAIL CHALLENGES
1. Capacity constraints of single track lines. More loops & reinstated/new double track needed for robust timetable & huge increases in freight with peak oil scenario. Especially double track North approaches of Aberdeen; Inverness-Dalcross; and Inverness-Lentran or Clunes on FNL.
2. Much better rolling stock. Intercity (HST) comfort INV- EDB/GLQ. New rural train build for longer scenic routes. Including DfT routes (e.g. Settle & Carlisle) for production line economies.
3. Make fares fairer. Revert from after 09.15 departure off peak watershed back to "no arrivals before 09.15" watershed. First off peak arrivals in EDB/GLQ from INV are at 12.45 pm!
[This one is VERY important to encourage travel by train rather than car or bus to Edinburgh/Glasgow/Aberdeen]
Restore restaurant car service for all passengers on NX Highland Chieftain. Vital to attract passenger for this 8 hour journey. Rumour that kitchens to be removed from HST denied. Is this true? Once taken away, they never return. What is future catering provision on IEP?
Restore British Transport Police complement in the Highlands back to 4. Presently shrunk to 1.5 officers!! Huge area to cover including detached Fort William line - 65 mile drive before they even get to that line.
Much more powerful Government DIRECTION of freight on to rail, e.g gas to Caithness by dangerous road, but how do you extract this flow from a UK wide road agreement?
Emphatic NO to bigger EU lorries. Already far too big to negotiate many corners. Extra height has been a disaster with so many blown over or liable to strike railway bridges.