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

Facing Points

The whole railway system is facing challenging times - awash with cash yet paradoxically finding this almost ll tied up in routine 'housework', and largely unable to find funding for anything like the substantial improvements we would all like to see. In the way of so many spheres the Strategic Rail Authority, on which so much hinges, appears seriously top-heavy, while Network Rail is still finding its feet and seeking to harness the best resources it can command. I just venture to suggest that you thank your lucky stars you do not have the responsibility of threading your way through such a lethal series of delicate minefields. In my experience, railway staff 'on the ground' do a very creditable job, not infrequently in highly volatile and adverse circumstances.

Anyone travelling on our line can hardly fail to notice the wide divergence in how its stations look. Some are clearly alive; for example Dingwall, staffed and with tenants, and Scotscalder and Rogart, both unstaffed but privately owned by railway supporters, are models of good 'presentation', welcoming and reassuring. Muir of Ord has been modernised, as has Alness; miniature Beauly is new; all are efficient but lack character. Dunrobin is very much a one-off, but has purpose and is distinctly smart.

Sadly the rest, mostly unoccupied, only offer a more or less bleak and indifferent setting, and cry out for a little TLC. The railway have no spare resources for livening them up. Might we not begin to volunteer a modicum of self-help, maybe enlisting support from local communities? My concern arises from what is done elsewhere - with fine results and a sense of cheerful local self-respect. Can we not give it a try?

And I confess! To my shame Kinbrace is pretty unwelcoming too as yet. But - honest - this IS high in my In tray. Pending is Out!

Keith Tyler