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The Friends of the Far North Line
Cairdean Na Loine Tuath
the campaign group for rail north of Inverness - lobbying for improved services for the local user, tourist and freight operator

Friends of The Far North Line AGM at 1445 on 18 June 2011


Present - Richard Ardern, John Brandon, Bob Barnes-Watts, Stewart Campbell, Alastair Christie, J Christie, Sandy Colley, Pamela Draper, P Hardyman, S Hurst, Tony Jervis, Iain MacDonald, John Melling, Richard Morris, Mike Lunan, A Parrott, Roger Piercy, Oliver Rackman, Frank Roach, Leslie Rowe, Rold Schmidt, Gavin Sinclair, , David Start, Angus Stewart, Janice Stewart, Martin Stillwell, Anne-Mary Wharton, John Thurso

Apologies - Colin Ainsworth, Arran Aird, Daniel Brittain-Catlin, Ian Budd, R Corke, John Ellis, Frank Faulkner, Keith Farquharson, Keith Fenwick, Dorothy Haldane, Chris Heaps, Mrs G Hart, Geoff Hinder, Peter Howson, Iain Jamieson, E Loewenthal, JM Mackie, Anthony Lennon, William MacLeod, Ian M McDermott, Matti Ollikainen, Gordon Pettitt, Mrs L Piercy, B Raper, Dr S Robertson, Catriona Rose, Malcolm Smith, Ron Stevenson, Mr & Mrs Duncan Stewart, John Stubbs, Mrs B Taylor, Les Turner, Christopher Watford, John Williamson, H.J Wren, Andrew Wright

Minutes of 2010AGM (previously circulated) were agreed.

Matters arising - none.

Convener's Report - see below.

Membership Report - 179 members with 5 community councils. John Melling noted that we should gain the support of more Community Councils.

Treasurer Report -
'The accounts presented are in line with expectation and a slight increase in surplus from £218.29 (2009) to £346.83 (2010). Our bankers have advised their intention to withdraw interest payment on our current account. Although this is in line with many of the other High Street financial institutions a reduction in income however small is unwelcome. There are limited options available for us to find other accounts and therefore to maximise our income is very difficult in the current financial environment. I have attempted to discover those limited options available to us and many that exist reflect limited banking facilities, with many restrictions with the operation of similar accounts. Our bond investments continue to provide a small injection of funds added to the Members Fund. Interest rates continue on a downward trend. I would like to thank all those members who responded by post to the request to increase the membership fee to reflect the excellence of our newsletter and continue forward along similar standards. I wish to thank my fellow committee members for their help and support, and I wish to commend my report and the proposed membership fee increase to the Annual General Meeting for consideration.'

It was noted that travelling expenses for committee meetings could be reduced by the committee using telephone conference facilities. Treasurer Report approved by Roger Piercy and seconded by Angus Stewart.

The subscriptions resolution was amended to include family memberships. Members were asked to vote on approving the increased membership fee from £7 to £12. David Start proposed; Mike Lunan seconded. No one spoke against. Members voted:

         at meeting    voted in advance    
YES     27    28
NO     0    2

The vote was carried 55 to 2.

Election of Office-bearers:

Chairman. John Brandon was nominated by David Start and seconded by Bob-Barnes-Watts. There being no other candidates, John Brandon was elected Chairman.
Secretary. There being no other candidates, Gavin Sinclair (proposed by Bob-Barnes-Watts and seconded by Stewart Campbell) was elected Secretary.
Membership Secretary. There being no other candidates, Angus Stewart (proposed by Richard Ardern and seconded by Iain MacDonald) was elected Membership Secretary.
Treasurer. There being no other candidates, David Start (proposed by Angus Stewart and seconded by Bob-Barnes-Watts) was elected Treasurer.
Newsletter Editor. There being no other candidates, Tony Jervis (proposed by David Start and seconded by Iain MacDonald) was elected Newsletter Editor.

Election of 2 Committee Members:

Bob Barnes-Watts was nominated by Mike Lunan and seconded by Janice Stewart; Richard Ardern was nominated by Iain MacDonald and seconded by David Start; Iain MacDonald was nominated by Bob Barnes-Watts and seconded by Angus Stewart. Richard Ardern (19 votes) and Bob Barnes-Watts (13 votes) were elected to the Committee.

AOCB - John Melling offered a vote of thanks for all the hard work and many years of service to Roger Piercy. John Melling proposed (seconded by David Start) that Roger Piercy be offered life membership of FoFNL. The AGM approved unanimously with a show of hands.

Meeting closed at 1530.

2011 FoFNL AGM Convener's Report

The past year has seen a number of successes in our campaigning for improvements to train services on the Far North Line. The portions of the 17.52 from Inverness were reversed so that the Wick section is on the front, thus shortening journey times for the majority of passengers, and we have succeeded in having stops by trains at Dunrobin Castle aligned with the opening dates and hours of the Castle. This, we understand, is the most popular tourist attraction north of the Great Glen with some 50,000 visitors a year and, along with an advertising campaign by the Castle which stresses the convenience of using rail and giving a discount on entry to rail passengers will, we hope, have a very beneficial effect upon rail use at the northern end of our line. Many thanks to Bob Barnes-Watts for his work on this. Unfortunately, we have lost one of our rail-served attractions for the time being. During the bad weather last winter, part of the roof of Carbisdale Castle, now a Youth Hostel and served by Culrain station, collapsed under the weight of snow and it has been closed since. We understand that it is proposed to reopen it in September but we will, of course, have lost the summer season.

We still have some way to go and a "wish-list" of improvements to the Far North Line and to connectivity from both Aberdeen and via the Highland Main Line was published in the most recent newsletter. We remain concerned at the six hour gap in services to Inverness from Alness, Ross and Cromarty's largest town, and we will continue to campaign for the 08.12 from Wick to call there. The saga of Conon Bridge station limps towards its hopeful conclusion of reopening but progress has been slow. FoFNL was excluded from a meeting held in Inverness with the then Transport Minister, Stewart Stevenson, last year to discuss this for reasons which were somewhat spurious. Although the meeting was called by Conon Community Council, the SNP decreed that we should not attend; we were advised of this through the pages of a newspaper. A subsequent letter of complaint to the SNP's Chief Executive was ignored.

The line suffered quite badly during the first bout of bad weather experienced last winter. Much of this has been covered in the newsletters but it seems that the railway authorities in remote Glasgow may have misunderstood the situation in the north of Scotland. I'm pleased to say that, when the weather deteriorated again, the effect was less.

Members will recall that, in my report last year, I mentioned the informal gathering which the secretary and I had attended at Portcullis House and that some interesting developments had come from that. You will have read in subsequent newsletters that these pertained to proposals for an hourly train service between Inverness and Tain and that, subsequently, I attended a meeting in Glasgow with Transport Scotland and HITRANS at which these were tabled. They were received favourably and we were led to believe that TS would be taking them forward to produce a business case. However, the eventual response we received was that, because we hadn't done the business case, they could not be taken forward. HITRANS also advised us that they were unable to arrange it. This left us in somewhat of a "catch 22" situation. I am, however, pleased to be able to report that we have received an offer for the business case to be produced at a reduced rate and we are currently investigating how this could be financed. Sadly, even this reduced rate is beyond HITRANS.

The constitution requires that we hold a minimum of three committee meetings a year. You may remember that, between the two previous AGMs, we had only held two, this being because the AGMs were only ten months apart. I can report that, to redress the balance, we have held four since the last AGM, alternating between Inverness and Edinburgh. Committee members have, once again, been active in representing the society at numerous meetings and have put in a great deal of time and effort on our behalf.

At last year's AGM I paid particular thanks to our newsletter editor, Roger Piercy. At a subsequent committee meeting, he announced that he would be relinquishing his post at this AGM. This is a bitter-sweet moment for us all. On the one hand, it is my happy duty to thank him once again for all the hard work he has put in over many years in which he has given service to the society but, on the other, we will all be sad to see him go. I would hope that his replacement will receive as much support from the membership and beyond in respect of being supplied with articles for the newsletter as Roger has.

Finally, although I have mentioned a couple of committee members individually, an organisation such as the Friends of the Far North Line could not function without the input of all of the committee and I thank them for the hard work they've all done over the past year.