Financing And Franchising
Richard Ardern attended the public meeting with the Scottish Cabinet in Elgin on Tuesday 6 September. He particularly wanted to ask that the comprehensive scheme which has been drawn up to realise the Government's objectives for the Inverness to Aberdeen line should be funded in full. There was time for some 30 questions from the 350 strong audience, but many questions were not reached and Richard's was one which had to go in for a written response later. He did manage to have a word with Alex Neil, the Minister for Capital Investment and Infrastructure, afterwards.
A Minister of Religion asked that rail and road infrastructure projects should get equal and high priority for funding, but sadly the rail bit was not answered. Indeed, Alex Salmond mentioned the A96 twice and the A9 once, but not a word about the Government's priority strategic local rail schemes. This is worrying.
On the other hand, Alex Salmond is clearly convinced that, in these difficult times for the economy, it is vitally important to progress capital investment schemes to facilitate future growth in the economy. The level of the capital budget is a limiting factor.
During the summer, Richard and Bob Barnes-Watts have been arranging meetings with MSPs John Finnie, Rob Gibson, David Stewart and Dave Thompson to discuss Highland rail improvements and their funding.
In the near future it is likely that Transport Scotland will be opening a consultation on their initial plans for the new ScotRail franchise to commence in 2014. Again it is a great pity that this is being done at a time of constrained budgets because some of the more enlightened ideas may not be funded. Do look out for this and send in your comments.
FoFNL is likely to ask for our hourly-service-to-Tain plans to be considered; for Conon station to be included; for the Highland Railcard to continue; and in the longer term for a new train to meet the requirements of the FNL; and for upgraded trains and services south and east from Inverness. Amongst other things.