The new timetable commences on Sunday 10 December and as reported previously, a new service will operate from Wick to Inverness. Departing at Wick at 0813 (Thurso 0842) this service will arrive in Inverness at 1213 for onward connections to Aberdeen, Perth, Edinburgh and Glasgow. The 1753 Inverness - Wick service will be 4 vice 2 coaches in order to balance the rolling stock. An additional pair of traincrew have been employed at Wick depot to resource this new service.
The only change to the Invernet service is the retiming of the 1144 Tain service to start at 1217 and terminate at Invergordon; the 1302 ex Tain starting from Invergordon at 1314.
With the permanent timetable complete, the first service from Kyle of Lochalsh has retained its 0725 path. A retiming to allow a 0900 arrival in Inverness may be brought in a future timetable change. FoFNL's policy is to have a 4th northbound service operating from Inverness to Wick in the afternoon.
With the introduction this year of the 0813 ex Wick, an additional northbound service can be provided without any additional rolling stock or mileage costs. Pathing a 1400 departure from Inverness is difficult having to cross southbound trains at a number of locations: the 1314 ex Invergordon (at Inverness), the 1159 ex Kyle (at Muir of Ord), the 1237 ex Wick (at Ardgay) and the 1552 ex Wick (at Helsmdale).
Further, there are a number of freight paths in the timetable (used or not) that have to be considered (notably the 1539 Lairg Oil Terminal to Inverness, Monday Only). In the context of the current timetable pathing an additional service is unachievable. Introduction of a 4th northbound service will have to be with a timetable recast that will require a number of structural changes to the train plan. These will be developed with Highland Rail Partnership. There will have to be a further increase in the train crew establishment at Wick depot which is, essentially, the only cost of an additional 4th northbound service.