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

2009 Survey of Far North Line Delays (Part 1)

In the last Newsletter we reported on our survey of delays during 2008 up until the timetable change on 13 December. We have continued to monitor this and the figures for the 102 operating days from 14 December until 31 March are reported below.

Train faults 22
Signalling faults 13
Points/track/LX faults 2
Staff shortages 3
Consequential delays 45
Unknown or outwith railway control  
Tree/animals/bridge bash 10
  2009 2008
Train faults 23.2% 34.2%
Network Rail faults 15.8% 20.5%
Staff shortages 3.2% 5.8%
Consequential delays 47.4% 27.5%

During this period we recorded 95 delays or nearly 6 per week compared with 4 per week during the whole of last year. Removing the consequential delays reduces the average to 2.5 direct causal incidents per week compared with 3 per week last year. Eight of the ten extraneously caused delays were due to a tree blocking the line near Lairg on 21/22 December and due to the bridge strike at Kildary on 31 March.

The frequency of train faults has increased from 1 every 5.3 days to 1 every 4.6 days and the frequency of Network Rail failures (signalling, track etc) from 1 every 8.8 days to 1 every 6.3 days. We have recorded many more knock on delays this time which underline the operating challenges that mar punctuality on a single track line with too few passing places.

10 Invernet services (5 each way) were cancelled throughout and 5 cancelled for part of their journeys. 5 Wickers were cancelled throughout and 7 partly so. Thurso was missed out on 13 additional occasions. In three and a half months, this is a four times much worse record than during the 11.5 months of last year when only 11 bypasses of Thurso were recorded. This suggests that timekeeping has been seriously worse this year and such a suggestion is borne out by the significantly increased percentage of consequential delays reported.

We have to emphasise again that this data has been randomly rather than systematically collected, so it can only be a pointer to the scale of the problem. FoFNL believes that improvements are urgently needed to improve passenger service and permit an increase in services, particularly for freight. Present rolling stock and signalling are both way below the reliability needed to operate such a difficult line with the required punctuality. We look to Transport Scotland, ScotRail and Network Rail to draw up an action plan for the line.

Richard Ardern