Meeting the Community Councils - Creich 20th June
Earlier this year the committee sent an e-mail to all Community Councils associated with the Far North Line offering the opportunity to meet with us, it having been a long-held view that we should be in touch. So far we have received invitations from Creich, Ardgay and Conon Bridge.
Your newsletter editor was available to attend the Creich Community Council and after a lengthy journey into the countryside well beyond Bonar Bridge arrived at the meeting place.
After introducing myself I went on to give a brief history of FoFNL. I described how we communicate with our members and the geographical spread of our membership. I gave details of the railway industry bodies with whom we communicate and the reports that we have submitted.
It soon became apparent that FoFNL is perceived by the Lairg Route communities to be in favour of the Dornoch Rail Link (DRL) at the expense of the Lairg Route. There were only 4 Councillors present and one of them said at the end of the meeting that he thought that I was only going to talk about the DRL. I tried to assure them that we were keeping an open mind on the situation and would wait until we had seen a proper assessment of the cost and benefit analysis for improvements for the whole of the Line before deciding on what proposals we would support or oppose. I assured them that we will continue to support the Lairg Route given its strategic importance with regard to the Sutherland hinterland and the delivery of oil to the Lairg depot.
I discussed the Invernet services and tried to explain the complexity of introducing new services into the timetable given the current infrastructure and informed them of the introduction of the 4th train south.
I mentioned the work we were doing with regard to rolling stock and they appeared to share our views as to the unsuitability of the trains.
They are obviously interested in the Line, the Chairwoman having attended the meeting in Lairg that Rob Gibson and John More conducted and another Councillor had attended the RPC meeting in Dingwall. They asked questions about whether the numbers of passengers had fallen away due to the free bus travel and about the loadings of the Invernet services. I stressed that we worked hard to try and redress the balance between rail and bus in respect of the fares. One Councillor suggested that the numbers of commuters from Lairg was being reflected in the rise in house prices.
I expressed the hope that they would involve us in any communications they might have with regard to problems with the Line and emphasised that they take advantage of the special place Community Councils enjoy in attracting the attention of decision makers and influencers.