I had been hoping that by the time this Headcode was being written there would have been a veritable fanfare of news about the future of the Far North Line, resulting from the labours of the Review Team over two years - it would be fair to say though, that most of the 'labouring' has been done by Network Rail and ScotRail as they have worked up ways of improving the service on the Far North Line.
However, it is the nature, and deliberate intent, of the new 'pipeline' process for allocating works in the Control Periods, that there is no 'Grand Announcement'. We have been hoping for news of a definite decision to install a passing loop at Lentran and - fingers crossed - another at Kinbrace and perhaps Bill Reeve will lift a corner of the curtain at our AGM & Conference...
Last week there was a classic example of why single track railways are such a problem. Some of us were travelling up to Forsinard to witness the unveiling of the 19th, and final, "Jellicoe Plaque". The event was timed to fit with the railway timetable. We missed the unveiling because we were 69 minutes late and the unveiling had to take place as planned to allow some participants to return south.
We arrived at Rogart on time. The driver was then unable to get a signal from the RETB system so a 'card' was issued by phone and we left 20 mins late. This meant that we were going to cause a long delay to the southbound train we were due to cross at Forsinard by being 20 mins late. The decision was taken by Control to hold us at Helmsdale until the southbound reached there - a 49 minute wait for us but the correct decision for southbound passengers with onward connections. After dropping us at Forsinard the train omitted Thurso, and did the same on its return journey from Wick, to try and make up time.
Obviously the timetable is designed to function perfectly well using the single track but if anything goes wrong the delays rapidly become dramatic.
If the Scottish Government is serious about there being a "Climate Emergency" and follows its own stated policy of encouraging modal shift from road to rail, we can expect to see an early change in emphasis from massive road projects to serious spending on rail provision. This needs to stretch all the way from the comparatively microscopic cost of building passing loops at Lentran and Kinbrace to seriously expensive projects such as reopening the proper route from Edinburgh to Perth which was obliterated in part by over-enthusiastic road building in another era.
It is our job to convince politicians to act on this.