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

Thumbs Up for Invernet

A huge rise in the number of passengers using trains from Dingwall means the town's station is now the busiest North of Inverness.

Figures revealed by transport group HITRANS show the number of people getting on trains at Dingwall has risen by 82 per cent over the past three years - now 64,000 people a year use the station. New passengers have decided to let the train take the strain further up the North line too.

The award-winning Invergordon station has registered a massive 94 per cent increase in passengers over the same period. Beauly station is also very popular, and it now attracts 42,000 passengers a year.

Transport experts believe the new passengers have been encouraged to take the train following the introduction of new services in 2005 and again in 2008, and also because of improvements to Dingwall station. These include CCTV cameras, customer information links, cycle lockers and shelters.

The good news about the thriving rail services in Ross-shire comes after it was decided to push for a new Ross-shire Transport Forum to deal with the high level of concerns about public buses and other services. The drive to set up the transport forum follows a lively, well-attended Dingwall and Seaforth ward forum when members of the public raised several issues.

Ranald Robertson, programme manager of HITRANS - The Highlands and Islands Strategic Transport Partnership which is tasked to pursue improvement to local services - presented its findings about the growth in train passengers at the same ward forum. He told the Ross-shire Journal that HITRANS had been instrumental in developing a new timetable to secure the introduction of more services on the west and north lines passing through Dingwall, which had resulted in a steady growth in passenger numbers.

It means there are now 13 trains through Dingwall each way every day, including a late-night service and three Inverness-bound trains leaving Dingwall within an hour before 8.30am "It shows that if we give people services at the right time for them, then they will use them. We want to keep the growth rates going up," he said. ScotRail confirmed its services from Dingwall had experienced steep annual rises.

Commenting on plans for a new transport forum, Councillor Angela MacLean told the Journal it was hoped it would help address the many issues raised by members of the public. "A number of people are experiencing difficulties getting responses from transport providers and if we had a local transport forum there would be better engagement between the public and these bodies," she said. Councillor MacLean explained it had been clear during two well-attended ward forums on transport that it was a hot topic, and many local residents felt passionately about the issues which affected them. The points raised at the last ward forum included older passengers wanting enough time to get to their seat before the bus moved away, calls for more bus stops and shelters, the need for a bus service from the top of Dingwall, to the station and improved facilities for the disabled.

"There are a lot of local issues, some are really practical things," said Councillor MacLean. "If we are to get as many cars off the road as we can our public transport has to be affordable, it has to be efficient and on time," she added.

Courtesy of Ross-shire Journal (L.Bradshaw)