The Far North Line is currently in 'waiting' mode. An announcement is expected soon about the infrastructure works to be undertaken in Control Period 6, 2019-24; the Review Team members have been deliberating about some potentially major changes to the way the FNL is operated and the next meeting of the Team is on 16 February; and then there is the question of how to resolve the many smaller operational issues that beset the line at present. The last few years have not been good for FNL passengers and we have high hopes of much better times to come.
Railways should not only be about passengers. Now that it is accepted by all political parties that much needs to be done to reduce the use of fossil fuel we make no apology for including four full pages on the subject of freight.
Several influential newspapers have picked up the thread and there is a feeling that the present situation, where it is all too easy for companies to opt for using the freely available road system instead of working out how to transfer major freight flows to rail, is not tenable.
It is lamentable that the Lairg oil trains have been discontinued again - road tankers are not the correct answer for that flow. As Philippa Edmunds of the Campaign for Better Transport said in 2015, "Government needs to treat the different modes equally to allow rail freight to compete on a level playing field; that way the economy and society can benefit from safer less polluting freight distribution which reduces road congestion."
The eye-watering sums being spent on major road projects in Scotland seem hard to understand when the government knows that modal shift to rail is essential. Only a cynic might have a passing thought including the word 'votes'.
We hope you continue to enjoy the mix of items that find their way into FNE. Naturally all suggestions will be considered and all offers of material gratefully received!