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


Change, but happily not decay, is all around ... and Scotland's railway is no exception. The new Scottish government has clear commitments in the transport field, many of which it may be able to implement with support from other parties. The SNP made it very clear in the last Parliament that it would stop the Edinburgh Airport Link and the Edinburgh Tram development, both of which it believed to be much too expensive, and divert the money to other transport improvements. FoFNL hopes that some of this money will be used to improve the railway north of Perth - decent sums too, not just tinkering. Our Election Newsletter spelt out in some detail where we think policy should be going and, with a minority administration, getting other parties, particularly Labour, on board to agree very long term projects is even more critical.

With tolls on the Forth and Tay road bridges likely to be abolished and pressure for ferry fares to be slashed coming from islanders, there may not be too much money sloshing around for the railway. FoFNL will be watching closely to see that the Highlands are not overlooked yet again.

Network Rail's Scottish plans must be financed properly to ensure improvement to journey times and reliability on the Highland Main Line and north, west and east of Inverness. Like his predecessor, the new Transport Minister isn't blessed with any railway in his constituency, so he can make decisions free from any accusation of pork. Nevertheless he represents a rural seat and will be only too familiar with the problems of connectivity in remote areas.

I hope that Tesco's long-awaited decision to start using rail to Inverness again is made soon, and that this will allow groceries and parcels to be carried on the FNL. The Secretary of State is fond of reminding us all that he doesn't favour carting loads of fresh air up and down the railway - how good it would be if his heart could be cheered by the knowledge that in Scotland they can find a way of carrying small quantities of freight on passenger trains. We can't bring back the guard's van, but plenty of freight multiple units are out there, and I see no unsurmountable reason why a car from these can't be incorporated into an existing passenger set. Difficult, yes; impossible, no.

Lots to look forward to, then. Floreat ferravia Albensis.

Mike Lunan