This article is a briefer update of the Months of Misery feature in the last issue. Because of Christmas, New Year and then weather interruptions, only the first full week of the new timetable can be directly compared with the old.
October and November continued to be beset with delays and cancellations though there were fewer of the latter. December seemed to bring an improvement and on the first Monday after the timetable change (Monday 15 December) everything in both directions between Inverness and Dingwall ran on time. The only flaw was the cancellation of the 06:16 Ardgay to Inverness. Services ran well again on the Wednesday.
Tuesday and Thursday saw cancellations of middle of the day Invernet services, so that problem has not been solved. The 06:18 from Wick arrived in Inverness 72 minutes late on Tuesday 16th due partly to congestion on the Muir of Ord to Inverness section where we badly need some dynamic loop reinstatement. At Thurso only 25% of arrivals were on time and the newly timed 18:28 departure from Inverness was 42 minutes late arriving on Friday 19th at 23:01. Since then we have seen a good few occasions when Thurso has been bypassed to make up time including one when the Wick arrival was not until 23:59, but some of this has been bad weather related.
Undoubtedly the new timetable with extended journey times (which we are assured are temporary) has improved punctuality. It was finalised very late in the day and communities such as Alness, which have suffered a reduction in service, complain they were not consulted. FoFNL would agree with Gavin Sinclair's statement elsewhere that the stop at Alness by the 16:00 from Wick should be reinstated by request. There were passengers regularly alighting at Alness and others used it in order to catch the London sleeper.
Extra time for the new Conon Bridge stop was incorporated into the timetable six years ago. This been used up over several years now by the long standing "temporary" speed restriction north of Muir of Ord. Now that Conon is open, the effect of this TSR is showing as late running. It is not Conon's fault. Network Rail says that this TSR will definitely be lifted in February. This good news together with the 1½ minutes pathing allowance should make it possible to stop at Alness. FOFNL asks First and Abellio to co-operate please and reinstate the Alness call by the 16:00 with effect from the May timetable change.