Sadly we record the death of Harry Miller, founder chairman of FoFNL, on April 29. Harry's funeral was at Tain Free Church on May 4 when representative members were among the many friends present. An obituary appreciation appears elsewhere in this newsletter
This summer FoFNL welcomes:-
- the commissioning of the Georgemas Plunger
- the saving of 2 minutes on Inverness bound trains south of Ardgay
- the extensive programme of refurbishing stations along the line.
However many end to end passenger train times show little improvement as compared with three years ago. Disappointment will need to give way to approval when the findings from the 158 train trial run are made known and effected.
Rural railways are not free from threat - a reproduced letter from Frank Roach on page 10 challenges a well known writer on railways, Christian Wolmar, in his view that buses might replace trains on some routes. The writer had cited the Far North Line as being one of several which he claimed had covered only 10% of costs shortly before privatisation.
A lesser threat comes from within the enthusiast body with the continuing seemingly alluring prospect of a shorter route, with its divisive effect on communities in Sutherland - little is heard of where capital would be raised, or the lack of return on such an investment.
FoFNL will continue to press for track and line speed improvement using the existing route, for enhanced tourist useage, and for Freight on Rail. We welcome the Safeway Refrigerated Box trial run to Caithness. Given modern equipment, reliability in timekeeping, environmentally led road fuel policy and potential access to European Regional Development Funding the opportunities for long haul rail freight and its terminal handling are there to seize.
Lastly, and happily, we record the election of two of our members, John Farquhar Munro and Jamie Stone, to the Scottish Parliament.