December 2008 Timetable
The December 2008 timetable recast has been specified by Highland Rail Partnership (HRP). The timetable will use new Sectional Running Times (SRTs) to better match the characteristics of class 158 trains to improve performance. The potential for small journey time savings is off-set by the increased quantum of trains operating and the difficulty in pathing which leads to slightly increased dwell times at stations where trains are booked to cross.
The significant improvement is an additional service from Inverness at 1355 to Wick, arriving 1805. To improve performance in the evening peak, the 1237 ex Wick will skip-stop south of Invergordon thus arriving into Inverness earlier. This additional turn round time will go some way to help give a right time start to the 1753 departure from Inverness which can be a late start with train crew taking their full PNB after the inward late arrival from Wick.
Around Inverness in the Invernet area, Conon Bridge station is planned to open with most services stopping there, with a best journey time to Inverness of 25 minutes. The Invernet pattern is largely unchanged. A late departure from Inverness at 2320 to Tain is very attractive for passengers returning home after an evening in Inverness and for those travelling from the south, departing Edinburgh as late as 1940 for example. It will operate on Friday and Saturday nights only as a compromise to the Rules of the Route allowing engineers access to the line during the rest of the week for maintenance. The 0915 Inverness to Invergordon service and its return working have been removed from the timetable as these services do not load well and removal of these services will improve performance. In the morning peak, an additional service from Ardgay to Inverness is planned, arriving into Inverness at 0745 allowing for early connections to Edinburgh and onwards to London Kings Cross.
It is noted by regular commuters from Easter Ross that the current 0814 arrival is too early and a later departure from Tain would be welcome. A detailed train plan that provides a 0742 Tain to Inverness service, arriving into Inverness at 0856 has been advised to HRP by FoFNL. However this would require the flighting of trains and the use of intermediate sections at Fodderty and Evanton. Network Rail would be sensitive to the performance implications of such a train plan with three arrivals into Inverness in a 40 minute window. The existing 0635 ex Lairg would remain in its current path with the first service from Kyle of Lochalsh arriving into Inverness at 0845 thus providing an attractive half-hourly peak frequency into Inverness from Dingwall.
An improved Sunday service is planned particularly in the Invernet area where the timetable will allow for days out in Inverness and increased journey opportunities by providing additional connections to/from the south at Inverness. There will be an early arrival into Inverness at 1210 from Tain with evening return services at 1530 and 1800 with a late departure at 2100. Wick will have one return service all year round vice the second service which operates in the summer months. The Kyle service will operate all year with an additional summer service operating as now.
On the Kyle line, the timetable is revised with the first departure from Kyle of Lochalsh being brought forward to 0622 to allow for commuting opportunities from Loch Carron and Garve and to increase peak capacity into Inverness from Dingwall with an onward connection to Aberdeen at 0855. The evening return service from Inverness would depart earlier thus being attractive to commuters and connecting with bus services to Portree.