The Far North Line has had mixed fortunes this autumn, as can be seen from the punctuality reports compiled weekly by our Secretary and posted on the FoFNL website. The Punctuality Performance Measure (PPM) has generally been above 70% and climbed to a welcome 96% for the week before Christmas.
One of the reasons has been delays caused by the pipe train which runs from Hartlepool to Georgemas. It is a very heavy train of over 900 tonnes and has been having difficulties sometimes with slippery rails on the inclines between Invershin and Lairg, Golspie and Dunrobin, and Helmsdale and Georgemas. For Abellio's promised initiative to market some of our services as Tourist Trains, our former Secretary, Gavin Sinclair, has suggested that the name "The Orcadian" should be revived for the 10.41 from Inverness and the 16.00 back from Wick. An anonymous source quipped that naming the 16.00 "The Guaranteed Connection" might have a more beneficial influence on the timetable!
There is no word of the timber traffic from Kinbrace returning to rail yet, despite a lot of hard work from Frank Roach and welcome interest from the Cabinet Secretary for the Rural Economy. Trees are being removed from the embankments of the line by Network Rail in order to prevent recurrence of the blockages after high winds which have been happening in recent years. Starting from Inverness the tree fellers have now reached the Muir of Ord to Conon Bridge section.