Train Times For Lairg
The above table for 19.26 on Friday 27 August is a quite typical illustration of the poor timekeeping performance which the Far North trains have been showing this summer.
The latest figures exhibited at stations are for the four week period to 21 August and show a punctuality achievement of 84.1% for Highland services against a target of 92%. Previously, Highland services (which include the West Highland lines) had generally achieved over 90% punctuality.
This late running, which is often of the order of 15 to 30 minutes, on the FNL has led to delays to Perth and Aberdeen-bound services from Inverness. At the northern end of the line it has led to the Thurso stop being omitted and Thurso passengers being bussed to and from Georgemas.
Apart from radio signalling and mechanical failures, we understand a major cause has been the introduction of "black box" speed recorders in the cab which limit the driver's freedom to make up time and result in a more cautious approach to loops and termini.
It is a serious concern that this regular lateness may have a deleterious effect on the future introduction of the Invernet services between Tain and Inverness. If passengers continue to experience trains regularly turning up late at Dingwall or Beauly for example, they may well go back to the bus or their car and be lost to the benefits of rail. Word of unreliability gets round and passengers could drift away.
We understand that (National Express) ScotRail are now monitoring the problem and we trust that they and their successors First ScotRail will be able to come up with a solution in the next few weeks.
As a postscript, I wonder how many readers have noticed the virtual train crash implied from the above table from the Network Rail live departure boards website? We know that the line south of Lairg is single track and two trains could not possibly pass each other one minute south of the station. Fortunately, in real life we have RETB signalling to prevent such an occurrence.