2010 FoFNL AGM Convener's Report
The year just gone has been much quieter than past ones. The improved Invernet service has been bedding in along with the fourth long-distance train in both directions and there have been some quite extraordinary increases in passenger numbers as a result. I can't lay claim to being responsible for this as it was achieved during the tenure of my predecessor, along with sterling work by our founder Frank Roach, now of HITRANS. There are a number of points, however, which still concern us. We would prefer to see the portions of the 17.52 departure from Inverness reversed so that the majority of passengers, who are in the Wick portion, have a reduced journey time. We would also like to see the dates and times of trains calling at Dunrobin Castle matching those of the castle itself. On both these points, we have been in contact with Transport Scotland but have yet to achieve a satisfactory result. We have continued to press for Conon Bridge station to be reopened but, as we heard earlier, it seems that the money we thought was ring-fenced has now been transferred elsewhere in connection with the freezing of Council Tax. Our September newsletter contained an article on Lentran loop and this was widely circulated within Scotland's railway and political communities.
As a result of it being only ten months since the last AGM, only two committee meetings have taken place; however, one is scheduled for this afternoon. Committee members have continued to take a pro-active part in attendance at and participation in other organisations' meetings throughout the Far North Line's catchment area, including HITRANS Rail User Group, Caithness Transport Forum and a scoping meeting organised by Passenger Focus for Network Rail's Route Utilisation Strategy. In addition, presentations have been given to several local societies.
Last year, Transport Scotland published a consultation document on Developing Railfreight in Scotland and the society responded to this; details were published in the newsletter.
The secretary, Gavin Sinclair, and I attended a reception at Portcullis House back in March hosted by our President, John Thurso, MP. Along with FoFNL member Daniel Brittain-Catlin, we entertained the former Managing Director of Regional Railways, Gordon Pettitt, and former ScotRail Director, John Ellis. The inventor of ScotRail, Chris Green, was to have been present but unfortunately had to attend a funeral. I'm delighted to report that both Gordon and John have now become members of the society. The discussion was informal but has led to some potentially interesting developments which are still on-going and will be reported to the committee this afternoon.
I'd like to finish by paying tribute to one particular committee member. Whilst this society is very much a team effort, our newsletter editor, Roger Piercy, has just compiled the fiftieth edition and, as usual, it is packed with interesting Far North matters both present and past. The quality of the newsletter is consistently high and that's all thanks to Roger, but it does require input from members, and others who have an interest in the line, for him to be able to fill its pages. I thank Roger for yet another sterling effort and implore the rest of you to keep him supplied with material.