Frank Roach, with his HITRANS hat on, invited Phil Verster, Managing Director of the Abellio ScotRail/Network Rail Alliance, to the Far North. He met some of the Committee in Inverness on the evening of 27 July and travelled north on the 10:38 the following day. By great good fortune this train was a mere 8 minutes late when I joined it at Altnabreac, having used the 13:06 from Thurso to get there. What a boon is the Network Rail "Live Departures" website, for without it and its disclosure that the 10:38 was indeed running that day I might have had to spend another 4 hours there. Delightful though it be, its attractions pall quite quickly, especially in midge weather.
Phil and I discussed various things in the 25 minutes before we arrived at Thurso. I reminded him that some of the actions he agreed following last year's Station Survey were still incomplete, and he welcomed the reminder. These are principally the painting of safety white lines at most of the stations, and the installation of tactile edging at Tain.This is needed because of the opening of Platform 1864 - location of the AGM this year (and very fine it is, too - eat there when you are next in the area) - and the added risk of those who have dined too well being unaware of the drop onto the line. I also pressed on him our view of the Scotland Route Study (printed elsewhere in FNE) and the great importance we attach to the Lentran Loop. He agreed that there needed to be some doubling between Inverness and Muir of Ord (as the Study sets out), but that the decision lay with the politicians.
On arrival at Thurso I was able to point out the paucity of convenient parking and - a continuing irritation to one member - the odd EXIT signage which directs the unwary to a locked door 50 yards away. The arrow pointing up was photographed, and it is to be hoped that it is replaced by one pointing left. We are promised a Customer Information Screen at Thurso (and at Wick), so these might be enjoyed soon.
It's clear that Abellio are well aware of the needs of the FNL, articulated here and elsewhere by FoFNL, and the warmth with which we exchanged thoughts bodes well for seeing improvements when funds become available. The Alliance's job is doing the work when it's programmed: ours is making sure that it gets programmed in the 2019-24 Control Period.