Setting the Points in the Right Direction
Gordon Pettitt points out in his article that to put in a loop in the Lentran area under the present regime would actually slow the trains down. FoFNL's idea of a reinstated loop from Lentran to Clunes would not be the optimum solution because two sets of 15mph points would be inserted into a section with a line speed of 75 mph.
We had suggested that option to try and contain costs. The Phopachy bridge over the former A9 now A862 was replaced some years ago in order to straighten out the road. Unfortunately, what had been a double track bridge was replaced by a new one only wide enough for one track. If we want a dynamic loop with double track long enough for trains to be able to pass at speed, it is suggested that should be at least 4 miles in length. Accordingly the project would attract the extra expense of building a new single track bridge along side the replacement.
The double track formation exists for six miles from Clachnaharry to Clunes. The line speed at Clachnaharry over the swing bridge is only 10mph so a slow speed point at that end is not a problem. It seems likely that the loop would be best incorporated with, or built as an extension to, the resignalling of the Inverness to Dingwall North section with multiple aspect colour lights and powered points. FoFNL has already put forward this resignalling idea as a supplementary submission to the RUS2 consultation.
The other possible constraint concerns how best to upgrade the level crossing at Bunchrew. If costs or safety dictated that it should remain as a single track crossing, there could still be a three and three quarter mile double section on to Clunes. You will see elsewhere that we have supported the upgrading of this crossing in our original RUS2 submission.
There is a valid case for the loop in order to make the present timetable more robust; ease problems during late running; and facilitate an increased number of scheduled passenger, charter and freight services. Similarly, the MAS signalling, motorised points, higher line speeds and additional loops on long sections such as at Kildonan or Kinbrace would all contribute to greater ease of operation and make the FNL a more useful railway. Competition for enhancement capital is now fierce in these recessionary times, but the FNL has great potential for increased traffic and that is being strangled by the choking constraints of an inadequate single line. The line fits all the Government targets for sustainability, carbon reduction, modal transfer etc. It deserves to be awarded some development capital for improvement schemes. The RUS2 must be changed to include some useful work on the FNL.