Watchdog Group Offers Rail Services Blueprint
Campaigners for better rail services in the Highlands have produced a strategy for the network over the next five years.
The proposals have been made by Highland Rail Partnership (HRP), an umbrella organisation including representatives from the rail industry, local authorities, enterprise agencies and voluntary groups.
The strategy calls for:
Journey time reductions and increased service frequency. The aim is to allow travel to Edinburgh in less than three hours. The timetable would consist of a mix of new trains and stopping services.
A commuter service between Kingussie and stations to Inverness.
Journey time reductions and increased service frequency. A journey time of less than two hours and an hourly frequency, with trains departing Aberdeen and Inverness at regular intervals. This would be achieved through introducing a dynamic loop at Orton and resiting Forres station, with some of the funding to be secured from European sources.
West Highland Line
Journey time reductions and increased service frequency. Additional services would be introduced at times when people want them and throughout the year, not least because the tourist season doesn't start just when the railway summer timetable begins.
Far North and Kyle Lines
Journey time reductions through a series of small scale improvements to infrastructure and rolling stock.
Additional services to Dingwall and Tain filling a six-hour gap in the existing timetable.
The Partnership is also calling for freight development, better car parking, customer information, accessibility, cycling facilities and the development of sleeper services.
Frank Roach, the rail development manager said, "The completion of our strategy comes at a crucial time for both the railways and the Highlands. The ScotRail franchise held by National Express expires on March 31, 2004. The Scottish Executive has issued Directions and Guidance for the next franchise to the Strategic Rail Authority which acts as its agent. The financing of the new franchise rests with the Scottish Executive, it is likely to be let for a 15 year period," he said. "Given the importance of the rail network within the Highlands, it is vital that the region's interests are fully reflected in the detail of the new franchise. We are seeking to build on the successes that the partnership has achieved since its inception."