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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

Minutes of Committee Meeting, Alness Heritage Centre
27 October 2014

Present : Stewart Campbell (SC) (in the Chair); Richard Ardern (RJA); Bob Barnes-Watts (BBW); Sandy Colley (AC); Iain MacDonald (IM).

(1) Apologies:
Malcolm Wood (MGW); David Start (DS); Angus Stewart (AS). Mike Lunan (ML) who was to have spoken to item 5.

(2) The Minutes of the last meeting at Inverness on 21 July were approved.

(3) Matters arising

(4) The new franchise
Discussion on what was known about Abellio's plans. Too early to say much so extra meeting to be arranged when more information on the EC franchise and Sleeper maintenance proposals should also be known; see 14 below. It was pointed out that Abellio's new route map is a little inaccurate.

(5) CP6 Our part 2 response to Network Rail
ML was thanked for drafting this. The paper was acclaimed. It was agreed that it would be helpful to add a coda asking whether continuing as the last bastion (with the WHLs) of RETB was the best that could be achieved, particularly now that ERTMS seems to be working well on the Cambrian line? Members agreed with IM that introducing track circuit block (where points can be locked at line speed) on the busiest section between Inverness and Tain would be highly beneficial. In the shorter term, members had heard that a new loop at Beauly was being considered. This would have the benefit that trains would be waiting at a station, although the optimum for a static loop under the present RETB would be at Clunes.

IM agreed to consider writing an article on aspects of signalling for the newsletter. ACTION:IM. BBW might also write about the impressive Dutch way of operating single track routes with fast points which needed much less maintenance. ACTION:BBW.

(6) Treasurer's report
RJA had received a letter from DS giving the current balances of the two accounts were £9,000 and £6761. DS would send the mandate form to MGW and BBW to get the new signatory arrangements up and running. ACTION: DS.

It was agreed that the £21 annual subscription to Railfuture should be renewed. ACTION: DS.

(7) Membership report AS had sent an email reporting 92 paid and 10 unpaid with a further 60 who pay by bankers' order direct to DS making a total of 152.

(8) Minutes and report of 2014 AGM and conference These were noted, the report having already appeared in the newsletter.

(9) Current disruption and any changes to the December 2014 TT
Details of the new "emergency timetable" wef December 2014 are now emerging. The Committee is most concerned at this 4th slow-down in less than 10 years. What is the need for this? Many trains will leave earlier, some skip stopping. Conversely the 08:12 from Wick is to leave 10 minutes earlier and take 18 minutes longer. The evening INV-WCK train is put back from 17:54 until 18:28 and will take 77 minutes (an extra 10 minutes) to reach Tain. SC said that skip stopping Alness by the 16:00 from Wick would affect several passengers who use that train to connect with the sleeper and would affect the viability of his own job commuting to Helmsdale.

[Are we agreed to pursue with the Minister? John Finnie is offering to ask parly questions if we wish. Options ask one of the constituency MPs to forward a letter to the Minister. Malcolm could do this easily as he lives in Gibsonland. I think Stewart should write personally also.]

(10) 2015 AGM
It was agreed that Abellio should be asked if they could provide a speaker for a date in June, possibly on a Friday, the AGM to be held in Inverness. ACTION: ? Tain might be considered as a venue for 2016.

(11) Newsletter

It was agreed that Ian Budd had done an excellent job with his first newsletter. The decision to use a better quality of paper was homologated.

BBW was asked if he might pen a general article on aspects of public transport integration. ACTION BBW. The next issue would give advance details of the AGM, details of the new East Coast franchise, our part 2 CP6 submission to Network Rail, and updates current FNL performance issues and on Abellio's post April 2015 plans.

(12) Attendance at other organisations meetings
RJA reported that Transform Scotland were producing some literature relating to the Scottish Inter-city Express campaign.

(13) AOCB
It was suggested that the Secretary might be asked to take a look at the membership form with a view to redesigning and updating it. ACTION: MGW. It was agreed the proposed meeting with Friends of the Kyle line should be postponed until the spring when we could again travel back from Kyle in daylight. RJA asked if FoFNL might agree in principle to helping both generally and financially with a book venture to make Sandy Colley's extensive photographic portfolio more widely known to promote the splendours and railway interest of the FNL. ACTION: SC and Committee members.

2015 Westminster election. There was no great enthusiasm to produce a document for prospective candidates as most railway matters are now devolved to Holyrood. It was noted that John Erskine, the Labour candidate for the north, had raised a petition calling for improvements to the FNL.

(14) Next meeting
Inverness, pm on Thurs 8 or am on Fri 9 January, which failing, Alness on Monday 12th.