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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

Dornoch Rail Link

Mark Norton, FoFNL member and Dornoch Rail Link Action Group (DorLAG) Co-ordinator was invited to discuss the benefits and issues concerning the Dornoch Rail Link for the Far North Line.

1.   Our views on the Dornoch Link

It is the view of the Dornoch Rail Link Action Group, and others who support the Link, that all should be done to ensure that the Far North Line provides a credible, relevant, competitive (with the A9), economically, socially and environmentally sustainable mode of transport for the people of Caithness and Sutherland. The reasons for this are given in a brief summary below.

We do not believe that the Far North Line is capable of being developed to its full potential in its current form, owing to its topography compared with the A9 road. It should be recognised that the ongoing decommissioning of the Dounreay nuclear facility and the anticipated closure date of 2036 will have a massive impact on the economy of the Far North. Offsetting this impact will require improvements to the rail link to Caithness and elsewhere.

Rail transport has huge potential for the Far North. This is recognised for the following reasons:

Improvements to infrastructure on the existing layout would cut journey times. Nevertheless, such improvements can only improve times by a maximum of 25 minutes, reducing Thurso-Inverness times to a minimum of 3 hours 20 minutes, still uncompetitive with the A9.

The Dornoch Link can cut a further 40-45 minutes off these times. This, combined with other improvements, would enable a total journey time reduction of 1 hour 10 minutes, cutting Thurso - Inverness journey times to 2 hours 35 minutes. This would be critical to helping the Line achieve its full potential as described above, in ways not possible without the Link.

It is recognised that the Dornoch Link may cause the communities at the Lairg Loop to have concerns about their railway services. Any decision to improve the Line with the Dornoch Link must take their concerns into cognisance and ensure that the Lairg Loop communities derive benefits from the Link as well.


Any decisions taken with regard to the Far North Line will have an impact on the future of the Line and the Caithness/Sutherland economy, thus affecting everyone in those areas irrespective of their use of the Line. Therefore it is considered that the construction of the Dornoch Rail Link is a pivotal part of any strategic upgrade of the Far North Line and must be implemented. The impending economic changes as detailed above make a positive resolution of this issue a matter of urgency.

2.   Guide to the benefits of the Dornoch Link for the Far North Line

Mark W. Norton, FOFNL member 413.