There are relatively few changes in the new timetable commencing 17th May. Sadly, once again the railway pursues its disappointing course of recent years, extending schedules by a minute here and a couple of minutes there.
The 08:02 Wick to Inverness is allowed an extra two minutes between Alness and Dingwall, arriving Inverness at 12:25 instead of 12:23. The train has thus been decelerated by 20 minutes since last year. The 07:02 Inverness to Wick and the 11:42 Inverness to Dingwall will both take one minute longer. The good news is the reintroduction of catering to all trains between Wick and Inverness and the removal of the freight train delay to the 18:28 northbound.
Tain will get one more Sunday afternoon service with, thanks to representations from FoFNL, a connection to a southbound service at Inverness.
On the Highland Main Line, the Caledonian Sleeper's arrival in Inverness is put back by 11 minutes to 08:47. This may be a bonus for commuters from Kingussie and Aviemore who will leave their home stations 18 and 9 minutes later. The Carrbridge call is also 9 minutes later than at present.
ScotRail has had more minutes added on to trains between Haymarket and Edinburgh Waverley. The 17:02 connection from Perth with the 14:47 from Inverness has two minutes added to its schedule. The 09:41 from Inverness to Edinburgh has another minute added to arrive in Edinburgh at 13:24, an uncompetitive 3 hours 43 minutes journey for what is already our slowest train. On present diagramming that shortens the turnround time to a mere ten minutes before it heads back to Inverness as the 13:34 service. Is that really time enough to refresh and water the train?
Where will all this end? With hoped-for major track enhancements between Inverness and Edinburgh/Glasgow and between Inverness and Aberdeen there are likely to be further journey time extensions from time to time for the foreseeable future. In these cases there should be a clear benefit at the end of all the pain. On the Far North Line the planning process has only recently started.