At a public meeting on 17 June, in Dingwall, it was suggested that the town should work towards becoming a rail gateway to areas of Scotland covered by the NorthCoast 500 road route.
There is a move to get Business Improvement District (BID) status for Dingwall, being led by Dingwall Means Business and the Dingwall Community Development Company. The potential draw of the rail routes is seen as a catalyst in encouraging the acquisition of BID status. George Murray, from Dingwall Means Business, commented, "We must package what we have to attract investment from private enterprises big and small over the long-term - public investment is not coming back so we need to do this or be left behind."
It was pointed out at the meeting that Dingwall's position on the rail network makes it an ideal place to begin beautiful scenic rail journeys, both north on the Far North Line and west on the line to Kyle of Lochalsh.
David Whiteford, Chairman of the North Highland Initiative (NHI), which developed the idea of the NC500, said of the Far North Line, "What a phenomenal journey north through amazingly contrasting scenery like the Flow Country, and it takes a different route from the NC500 which is great as it opens up the hinterland."
This does highlight one of the concerns that has been raised about the concept of NC500, that it has a kind of 'doughnut effect' on tourism in the north of Scotland by directing everyone on a circular route which invites them to miss out everything in the middle. There was, in passing, a slightly disturbing suggestion that the Far North Line could be renamed - something to which FoFNL is completely opposed. Don't change names: Consignia anyone?
A Business Improvement District is a defined area in which a levy is charged on all business rate payers in addition to the business rates bill. This levy is used to develop projects which will benefit businesses in the local area.
Scottish Government Website