Opportunities for new traffic on the Far North Line need to be seized whenever they present themselves. It is to be hoped that the increased frequency of sailings by the new Northlink ferry from Scrabster to Stromness will allow new connections into and out of ScotRail services at Thurso. The Friends have said that we would like to see a dedicated bus link between station and pier.
Dunrobin station opens every summer to facilitate rail travel to Dunrobin Castle, and in recent years Forsinard has been marketed as the destination for the RSPB Flow Country bird reserve. Nobody has yet come along to market gold panning days at Kildonan, but another potential "gold mine" for the line could be the new Harrods of the North at the Falls of Shin.
One problem with the line is that the relative infrequency of service levels at present makes it difficult to plan starting times and finishing times to fit in with the "tourist day" and also allow long enough at the attraction. When the Invernet two hour frequency services start running to Tain, there will be greater flexibility to try something at Invershin if Harrods can be persuaded it is worthwhile.
Discounting the early trains, the present service only allows two hours at Invershin from the Inverness direction with return in time for dinner. If dinner at Falls of Shin were part of the package, journeys from both the Inverness and Wick directions would be feasible.
With Invernet, a possible 09.40 from Inverness arriving Tain 10.41 could connect in to a coach for Falls of Shin and the return could be made on the current 14.41 from Invershin. Travellers on the current 11.27 from Inverness arrive Invershin at 12.47 and the same coach could be used to take them to Falls of Shin and then back to Tain for the postulated 15.42 or 18.07 from Tain. Use of the coach like this would permit another attraction to be visited en-route. Carbisdale Castle to see the statues, or Croick Church to learn about the clearances might be possibilities.
Day trips like these require robust marketing and the tourist board and enterprise companies can give assistance there. If Harrod's were to come on board, their own marketing expertise might be all that was required. Provision of a big waiting shelter at Invershin would be required, but, who knows, it might be forthcoming in return for station renaming to "Invershin for Falls of Shin" or "Invershin, Harrods of the North".
Tourist trips are only one element of the role of the Far North Line. They add revenue and help to improve the line's finances. Invernet has the scope to do this too and provide a much more frequent service for local residents. Would an 08.30 from Wick be viable too? It is hoped that this article might set others thinking creatively on how services can be improved for other stations to increase the use and usage of the line.