Alness, Brora, 'Elmsdale, Lairg Loop, Inverness to Orkney
Abellio Scotland, a subsidiary of Netherlands Railways, has won the franchise to run ScotRail for the next ten years commencing on 1 April 2015. The Far North Line is part of the EU's Trans Europe Network (TEN) and our branch presumably now runs from Amsterdam to Caithness!
The main "win" for the FNL may be our inclusion in the "Great Scenic Railway of Scotland" project which is to include "refurbished trains with improved seating layouts giving unobstructed panoramic views." Enhanced provision for bicycles will be welcomed not least by End to Enders who use our line to access John o' Groats. However, it is not clear whether the last refurbishment of the Inverness class 158s is seen to have already achieved all this? Free wi-fi is to be provided on all trains.
Inverness station is to be improved and be given a staffed information desk. (A warm waiting room with soft furnishings would be our top priority). There is no word of an enhanced hourly frequency of trains between Inverness and Tain.
South and East of Inverness it is proposed to employ the popular High Speed Trains when these are superseded elsewhere, perhaps in 2018. A £5 advance purchase ticket between any two of Scotland's seven cities and improved catering are other proposals. As they say, "the proof will be in the pudding!"
Glasgow's underground is affectionately known as the Clockwork Orange. While we do not expect our trains to be painted orange, it would be great if they ran like clockwork and a good bit faster. Watch this space.