While FoFNL is the campaign group for the FNL and rightly concentrates its efforts on making the case for improvements to this line, the line itself is a vital part of a chain stretching from Orkney to the South of England and beyond. People living and working everywhere along this chain require the most convenient, reliable and fast service that is possible.
Looking at our links to the South it is hard not to notice the muddled thinking which has resulted in the spending of £3000m to achieve a saving of about 20 mins travelling time on what is already a fast road. This is clearly a luxury expense, and ignores the fact that Inverness, one of Scotland's major population and tourist centres is still only reachable by rail along single-track lines with (very few) passing places.
I honestly think that our politicians, in the Scottish Government, are not taking the time as individuals to think this through. ScotRail and Network Rail seem to be as frustrated as passengers and campaign groups with a situation where the A9 dualling (remembering that road dualling = rail quadrupling) is seen as more fundamental to the country's needs than making sure that the required rail infrastructure is in place. A9 dualling is a luxury but main line dualling (and electrification) is a necessity. Past mistakes such as this cannot be rectified but hopefully future decision-making will be informed by them.
In addition the inexplicable lack of a fast rail route between Perth and Edinburgh conspires to make rail travel from the Far North to the capital something of an expedition. Comparable journeys in most of the UK are achieved much more quickly and with far fewer delays. Perth to Edinburgh train journeys now take longer than they did at the end of the nineteenth century. See article by Mike Robinson, Chief Executive, Royal Scottish Geographical Society. .
It is also true that, given the correct infrastructure, more freight movements will be possible by rail, thus benefiting road users too. The lamentable demise of the Lairg and Fort William oil trains is another symptom of the muddled thinking.
Eye-watering amounts of money are being spent on road projects which, although they will undoubtedly help motorists, should clearly be much further down the priorities list than the provision of a fast, reliable rail system. Such a system would be to the Scottish Government's credit in a way that luxurious road spending is not.
What is needed is plain speaking and an end to the spin that attempts to make minor changes to the railway look like major improvements.