Let's Get On With the Work!
Railways are vitally important for the future to deliver environmentally friendly transport solutions in line with government carbon policy. The Highlands lag far behind in rail infrastructure, most of it single track.
The 2011 election is over and Highlanders (our turn now having come after a long wait) wish to see the promised strategic rail improvements delivered.
Already promised are:
- Completion of the remaining planning work and the reopening of Conon Bridge station.
- Significant speeding up of the Highland Main Line (HML) from Inverness to Perth with extra passing loops for an hourly frequency of services reaching Glasgow and Edinburgh in less than three hours.
- Line speed improvements throughout between Perth and Ladybank on the line to Edinburgh which were scheduled for completion by 2009.
- Significant speeding up of the Inverness to Aberdeen line (InvAb) with extra passing loops for an hourly frequency of service taking two hours five minutes or less and improved half hourly frequencies for commuters at both ends.
- Opening of a station with park and ride at Dalcross Airport. [This would be invaluable sooner than ever now for the Scottish Open Golf competion fixtures over the next three years at Castle Stuart.]
[Hourly frequencies on the lines from Inverness to Perth and Aberdeen will greatly improve connections for both the Far North (FNL) and Kyle lines]
In addition to these promised upgrades, which make so much strategic sense to improve connectivity between the Scottish cities and their hinterlands, there are other projects being worked upon to meet perceived needs. Some of these will be included in Network Rail's 2nd Route Utilisation Strategy due to be published later this summer:
Future desirable projects:
- Urgently recover some of the time lost along the whole line from Inverness to Wick. Since 1992 services to Wick have been slowed by a total of 45 minutes due firstly to the closure of Thurso depot and the routing of all trains via Thurso. Secondly, the 25 minute slowdown of services in 2004 affected every station on the line. Tain, for example, has had 10 minutes or 17.5% added to the journey time to Inverness. This is not competitive.
- Line speed improvements through several level crossings, notably Bunchrew and Delny, but also Rovie and Kildonan. The train is even required to stop at the latter.
- Work towards FoFNL's hourly frequency proposals between Inverness and Tain. Bunchrew and Delny crossing improvements are vital to this.
- Develop Invergordon freight yard and loading points at Kinbrace and Altnabreac for timber traffic.
- Introduce colour light signalling between Inverness and Dingwall.
- Reinstate a dynamic loop between Clachnaharry and Clunes to greatly improve passenger, freight and charter capacity north of Inverness.
- Revisit past proposals to reopen Halkirk station and provide a curve at Georgemas directly on to the Thurso line.
- Reinstate loops either side of Forsinard to permit more trains to be run on the northern section of the FNL.
- Make sure increased number of paths on HML and InvAb lines are adequate for increased freight movements and also for diversions off the other line.
- Improve infrastructure for freight on all Highland lines: enhanced gauge; longer loops etc.
- Provide our Glasgow/Edinburgh trains proper inter-city quality rolling stock.
- Money is tight, but it is vital that investment for the future should continue especially given uncertainties over future oil supply and prices.