Rail Passengers' Committee, Scotland
The Monday evening session was devoted to a presentation by First ScotRail and John Yellowlees' explanation of the timetable changes and the major concern regarding the deceleration of the trains was more or less accepted with no members of the public seriously challenging him. The main challenger was FoFNL committee member Iain Macdonald, a former signalman on the line, who had submitted his comments in writing to the chair beforehand and then had the opportunity to speak to them. John Yellowlees however said Network Rail should reply in their presentation on Tuesday. Unfortunately Iain could not attend the Network Rail session and disappointment was expressed as they felt he was someone who knew what he was talking about.
Committee member Stewart Campbell brought up the subject of station improvements. He made the point that stations without buildings such as Alness and Beauly had different problems and opportunities from ones with buildings like Tain, Invergordon, Brora.
The Tuesday programme commenced with Frank Roach, Highland Rail Partnership giving a report on various aspects of the Line. He said that ScotRail are getting Class 170 Turbostars from Hull Trains but they are unsuitable for the planned use and there were hints that the FNL could receive them. Arup are to produce route strategies for the Executive and HIE/HITRANS/HRP are to commission consultants to work up infrastructure improvement possibilities for the Highlands. All to go in to the 2007-2012 financial strategy.
Frank Roach was followed by our former Chairman, Richard Ardern whose presentation on FoFNL policies was as usual clear, concise, pragmatic, authorative and with vision for the future. We have aimed to be reasonable and set achievable targets, with the right level of support for studies on the possibility of a Dornoch Link of which there were very few references throughout the 2 days.
The next presentation related to Rail Safety and Level Crossing Misuse. Network Rail took the opportunity of displaying in a town centre car park the wreck of a car that had collided with a train to reinforce the message that the public must be vigilant in using the crossings safely. Network Rail had carried out risk assessment exercises for the Dingwall crossings and had decided that there was no priority to install half barrier crossings.
After the presentation on Railway Crime, FoFNL member John Moore questioned the FoFNL committee's policy of doing nothing to enhance the education in schools of safe practice on the railway. Mr. Moore was reminded of the fact that with ScotRail and the British Transport Police channelling their limited resources to other variants of the idea, how could FoFNL members presume to be qualified to go into schools and talk to the children?
Network Rail infrastructure: The RPC have issued a document on Community involvement in Station Improvement. Ardgay Community Council are keen to support Ardgay and Culrain. The Small Towns Network Officers for Dingwall, Alness and Tain were in attendance and from their interest it is felt that they can build up some momentum on station improvement. Liz Cormack, chair of Ardgay CC asked for work on Invershin viaduct and a clear up of Ardgay goods yard and Richard Ardern asked for a tarred walkway through the Golspie station yard to the platform. Network Rail reported Helmsdale is to get a 7 mile stretch of track renewed over a five day closure in November [I wonder if Rob Gibson, MSP and Corus Report supporter, will ask for it to be 90mph track? Editor]
The two days gave FoFNL a very good opportunity to be seen working in the Community and making significant contributions to the knowledge gained by the Management of the Operating Companies of the Far North Line. It is to be hoped that the RPCS's work will be continued in some form but the details not clear yet.