scotland (4K)
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

Impressive Growth in Rail Travel Numbers

Following several instances of letters appearing in the northern press reporting a fall in passenger number the Highlands and Islands Strategic Transport Partnership (HITRANS) issued the following press release.

SUBSTANTIALLY more people in the north are choosing to travel by train, according to a statutory group tasked with improving transport services. HITRANS says there has been impressive growth in rail passenger numbers across the region over the past four years.

Passenger figures have increased on most North train routes with some stations showing a growth of 150 per cent and others doubling their usage figures. Stations in Sutherland have become much busier with Ardgay and Lairg, in particular, showing a marked increase in passenger numbers.

HITRANS says that the catalyst for the increase was the introduction three years ago of the new Invernet services n the suburban rail network serving Inverness and the surrounding area. Opened in December 2005 it has been funded for the past three years by Highland Council, Highlands and Islands Enterprise and the Scottish Government. ScotRail is due to take over the operation in a franchise agreement.

But HITRANS also attributes the growth to continuing investment in the rail network and efforts made by local communities to improve their stations. A statutory body, HITRANS was established as a result of the Transport (Scotland) Act 2005. Its remit is to improve the transport infrastructure, cut down journey times and reduce travel costs.

In a statement released yesterday, (Thursday), HITRANS chairman Duncan MacIntyre proclaimed that stations were back in the heart of the community. According to statistics revealed by HITRANS, railway stations at Carrbridge, Lochluichart and Ardgay showed growth of well over 150 per cent from 2004/5 to 2007/8.

Usage at Dingwall, Invergordon and Tain nearly doubled, with Dingwall the busiest station north of Inverness. Beauly, with a population of only 1200, accounted for almost 42,000 passengers last year. HITRANS claimed that the drop in Far North rail passenger numbers following the introduction of free concessionary bus travel for seniors had been made good. Figures for Wick station were up four per cent over the last four years, while usage of Brora station was up by eight per cent; Lairg by a whopping 17 per cent and Golspie by one per cent.

Chairman Mr MacIntyre said: "The stations themselves are in better shape than for many years, thanks to investment from First ScotRail through the franchise, from Transport Scotland and from ourselves at HITRANS. "Local communities are helping, from major projects n like the Invergordon murals, which helped the station win our 'Most Improved Station' award n to gardening and floral displays.

"Furthermore, the Transport Scotland funded new services that came in with the December timetable change, including four trains per day to Wick and Kyle and improved connections, will help even more people to make the switch to rail."

Published: 08 January, 2009