At the FoFNL AGM David Lister, ScotRail's Safety & Sustainability Director, gave a preview of the Scenic Trains which were promised for the Far North Line. He said ScotRail was always interested in listening to the passenger voice; however time was tight for comments at the meeting and so I took him at his word and dropped my feedback to him after the meeting. There were two points about Scenic Trains on the Far North Line which concerned me.
1. The first was raised at the meeting but the ensuing discussion was not reassuring: on a train promoted as being scenic the fundamental problem of failing to align seats with windows persists. Certainly in the picture shown in the presentation the window strut ran right through the middle of the field of view between two facing seats - a disappointment and surely a handicap to making the most of the eponymous scenery from the seats of this Scenic Train. Is there really nothing that can be done to improve the window-seat alignment?
2. I had travelled to the meeting on the southbound train from Helmsdale. On board were 4 bikes and a bike 'add-on' for a small child to ride behind a parent. It was yet another group returning from John O'Groats having completed the 'End-to-End'. In the summer season the demand for cycle spaces on this route is often heavy. However David's comments about the new rolling stock seemed to imply adoption of a 'one size fits all routes' policy and trains with more limited cycle space, maybe for only two cycles, adequate for other routes, were going to be used on the Far North Line. If so, this would be a regrettable retrograde step - this is a topic previously raised in the May issue of Far North Express.
These comments were dispatched immediately after the meeting in mid-June, but, as the weeks turn to months, no reply yet came there. [Disappointingly, as of Saturday 28th October, Mike had still not received a reply - Ed.]
Interesting quotes from Anthony Smith, CEO of the Rail Passengers Council in a speech to the 2004 ACORP conference: