Letter to Transport Scotland
To: Alastair Matheson, Transport Scotland
Friends of the Far North Line (FoFNL) would like to discuss with you some minor alterations to the Inverness - Wick timetable. The major timetable change in December 2008 has worked very well but where we see some scope for enhancement and improvement, we would like to share these with you here.
(1) 1755 (Sunday) Inverness - Kyle of Lochalsh/Wick
The weekday plan is essentially copied into summer Sundays with the Kyle and Wick trains combined, departing Inverness at 1755. However, in winter, the Kyle service does not operate thus allowing the Wick service to depart later at 1804. For three months therefore, the Wick service is slowed down by 9 minutes.
We understand the operational reasons for the weekday arrangement and indeed the commercial reasons (there are advantages in the distribution of passenger loadings given the Kyle portion stops by the station exists at Beauly, Muir of Ord and Dingwall). However, on Sundays, we would ask that the plan is revised with the Wick portion leading from Inverness. The timings north of Dingwall should be the same for the summer and winter periods for presentational purposes.
(2) 1752 Inverness - Kyle of Lochalsh/Wick
Although we have pointed out some of the advantages of the 1752 from Inverness (weekdays) being formed with the Kyle portion on the front, many Far North Line passengers tell us they would like the Wick portion to be on the front so as to improve the journey time for commuters to Alness, Invergordon, Fearn and Tain. Therefore FoFNL does ask that you consider swapping the portions of the 1752 to have the Wick portion on the front. We do understand that a timetable and diagramming solution might not be as easily found as for Sundays, but we do note that the 1715 Kyle of Lochalsh to Elgin now departs from Inverness four minutes later at 1957 which is one part of the solution.
(3) 0812 Wick - Inverness
(a) 0812 Wick to Inverness to call additionally at Dunrobin Castle (on request), summer only. The 'pathing' and 'adjustment' time currently included throughout the schedule should be redistributed as necessary to absorb a "dot stop" at Dunrobin Castle. (b) We think it essential that the 0812 ex Wick stops at Beauly to fill the current 3 hour gap between services and to provide the best possible service between Beauly and Inverness. Previously, the 0813 ex Wick (as was) did not stop at Beauly to maintain the 4 hour Wick to Inverness journey time and to connect into the 1219 to Aberdeen. Now that the Aberdeen connection has been put back there is scope to arrive Inverness later. The 'headline' 4 hour journey time, whilst desirable, is not essential.
(4) 1359 Inverness - Wick
(a) Inclusion of a Culrain stop in this service (this could be summer only and advertised as a request stop). This mid-afternoon train is attractively timed for the Youth Hostel. Revised timings: Ardgay arrive 1520½ as booked, Ardgay depart 15X27½, Culrain 15R32½ and as booked. (b) A stop should also be included at Dunrobin Castle (on request), summer only. The 'pathing' and 'adjustment' time currently included throughout the schedule should be redistributed as necessary to absorb a "dot stop" at Dunrobin Castle.
(5) Dunrobin Castle
(a) The 'summer' timetable of trains stopping at Dunrobin Castle should be extended to match the castle's seasonal opening dates of 1 April to mid-October. (b) In addition to the 0812 ex Wick and the 1359 ex Inverness stopping at Dunrobin Castle, we feel that this could be balanced by removing the Dunrobin Castle stop from the 0620 ex Wick. The current arrangement of this service stopping at Dunrobin Castle dates back to when only three trains per day operated in the summer.