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

Winter Sunday Service to Wick

In the previous issue of the newsletter we showed an impression of a leaflet that the Friends had designed for circulation through the areas to benefit from the introduction of the Winter Sunday service. We offered our help to ScotRail in publicising this service following on from our very successful collaboration with ScotRail over the introduction of the Tain Commuter train in September 2000.

Fortunately we decided to push on with our own distribution having realised that, once again ScotRail was not moving early enough to give sufficient publicity to the service prior to its commencement. It soon became apparent why ScotRail had decided not to collaborate with us. They had decided to design a leaflet that would incorporate the opening of Beauly Station and the new Winter Sunday service and were obviously aware of the consequences of their decision.

Our promotional efforts took the form of leafletting northbound trains, and visiting the communities of Alness, Invergordon, Tain, Helmsdale, Brora, Golspie, Wick and Thurso where the leaflets were displayed in shops and other public places. The colleges in Inverness and Thurso were included as was Raigmore Hospital. Disappointingly although the relevant Community Councils were approached, very few of them showed any interest in getting involved and one would like to think that the future of the line would be high on their agenda when serving their communities.

Frank Roach, Rail Development Manager for the Highland Rail Partnership has submitted the following figures:

1340 Wick - Inv 4/11 11/11 18/11 25/11 2/12 9/12 16/12 23/12
Passengers arriving at Inverness 33 39 N/A 15 28 27 18 15
Total carried 42 44 N/A 20 43 35 22 22
1830 Inv - Wick                
Passengers departing from Inverness 52 73 42 61 55 57 62 65
Total carried to Rogart 62 69 55 69 55 67 70 67

He writes "The counts reveal good use in the northbound direction. Interestingly, unlike weekdays, numbers tend to increase as the train goes north; this is most likely due to students returning to the North Highland College at Thurso joining the train in Easter Ross. They form over half of the passengers carried. The southbound service is predictably weaker, but is still performing better than expected, and around 60% of its passengers continue further south. In summary, the 7 day railway, at last, is proving its worth for education and training as well as for personal business and leisure."