Inner Moray Firth Proposed Development Plan
The Highland Council published its proposed plan in November. Growth areas were shown east of Inverness to Nairn and beyond and, on our patch, between Muir of Ord and Tain. Rail was mentioned almost in passing: more frequent and faster rail journeys and a new station at Dal-cross. We responded at some length, summarised as follows:
FoFNL is pleased to see the Inverness to Tain and Inverness to Nairn railways shown on the map as being "improved railways." We see considerable future increases in both passenger and freight traffic. It is important to ensure that land is safeguarded in all appropriate places to allow doubling of running tracks and construction of sidings and to allow easy access by both passengers and goods vehicles. Any developments proposed close to the railway should be examined very carefully with this in mind. We would agree that the line from Inverness to Dalcross Airport and preferably also on to Nairn should be significantly improved to become a double-line railway. We would point out that previously built road bridges for the A9 at Raigmore Interchange and for the A96 at Gollanfield are too narrow for this and would have to be altered at some cost. The line north towards Dingwall is at capacity at certain times of day and needs the reinstatement of the former double-line section between Clachnaharry and Clunes (Kirkhill) together with reinstated loops at Evanton and Kildary. This could usefully have already been done to allow more frequent services to operate whilst the Kessock Bridge is being repaired. FoFNL has been talking to Transport Scotland about an hourly service frequency all day between Inverness and Tain with some trains extended to Wick. We have compiled as robust a timetable as is possible with the current infrastructure and considered crewing and vehicle diagrams and costs. At Evanton, we agree that the land should be safeguarded at Fyrish Crescent for reopening the railway station. As well as serving the projected major increase in the number of houses in the village, a station here could also serve as a "parkway" for those several years when the A9 Cromarty Bridge is being rebuilt. An additional parcel of land would need to be identified and safeguarded for this. Railfreight services are also inhibited by the lack of train paths on both the Far North Line and the line to Nairn, Elgin and Aberdeen. It would be helpful to increase the loading gauge on the section between Elgin and the potential transhipment sea port of Invergordon to permit larger international size containers to be carried; this work has already been done for the route from Elgin to Aberdeen and the south. Invergordon has seen intermittent use for importing goods and we would expect this to grow. We do not support the idea to build houses on the former railway sidings at the west end of the High Street. [The Plan] does not show a future rail connection from the Nigg station area to the Global Energy complex at Nigg; FoFNL thinks that this should be actively considered and the appropriate land safeguarded. We believe that the industrial sites at Nigg have much potential to expand particularly now that it has been designated an Enterprise Area. The Norbord plant at Morayhill was built with a railway siding when new. Timber is now being brought along the Far North Line to this locus but has to be transhipped in Inverness because the factory has been extended and the siding compromised. Planning for a new rail siding here would be useful. However, it should not be allowed to prevent the dualling of the Inverness to Nairn railway line, so there may be a need for designation of an additional parcel of land here. FoFNL believes that there is potential for freight sidings to be constructed or continued at the following places: Nairn, Dalcross Airport, Inverness, Muir of Ord, Dingwall, Evanton, Alness, Invergordon, Fearn, Tain and Edderton. The potential at Muir, Alness, Invergordon and Edderton includes whisky related traffic both inbound and outbound. Such traffic is starting to flow southwards from and to the Elgin area; the Highlands should be next. We have an expanding railway which is seeing growth in both passenger and freight traffic. It, and coastal shipping, will both have much bigger roles to play in the future as we cannot continue to rely so much on road-borne traffic. It is vitally important to get much more track capacity on our single-line railways and to make sure that land access to these services is appropriately available for both passengers and freight.