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 best train from or to Inverness is the 'Highland Chieftain', courtesy of GNER and an IC.125 (HST) unit. Whether for London or a shorter foray to Edinburgh or York, the Mark 3 coaching stock offers unrivalled comfort and services, even over the electric Mark 4s; one is at ease and unstressed for long distance travel. These units may now charitably be termed middle aged, yet amid the plethora of new, and not inexpensive, trains more recently introduced, and wisely given internal and mechanical upgrading, the Mark 3s remain unsurpassed in the UK.

In the past, when new trains took over major routes, redundant stock was 'cascaded' onto lines needing superior vehicles which were otherwise too costly. This made sound common sense and was financially prudent. Some surplus HSTs have been redeployed, but far too many Mark 3 coaches have been simply set aside in store.

For reasons I do not fully understand, it seems Mark 3 vehicles deteriorate rapidly when not in regular use, so that any attempt to reintroduce them into service after an appreciable time would involve massive refurbishment; so new trains are really cheaper say the accountants with glee. (Some of such people would write off a Stradivarius as too old, urging proper depreciation to pay for a new model; good cash-flow.) Let the Mark 3s rot!

What a way to deploy mature assets. . . I deem this a disgrace. The railway industry is ever proclaiming inadequate resources and pleading poverty. Twentieth century generations would have resorted to joined up thinking, co-operation and sound business acumen. Good old common sense would have cut across regional and commercial business boundaries.

Life in the Far North throws up some curious aspects from time to time. Years ago, subsidies were available to encourage the planting of huge acreages of redwood trees. Quite a few joined the bandwagon. Now, under a policy to re-establish the full extent of the Flow Country, further grants have been offered for felling extensive areas of these plantations, and great swathes of trees have come down. Good, I thought - more timber trains!

How wrong I was. . . . Offers were made and negotiations begun, but it has so far come to nothing; it seems to be in no one's interest to remove the timber, so it too lies there and rots. (Dare I add, as a footnote, is it any wonder that some moderate middle-eastern communities regard us as wanton, and depraved?!)

Keith Tyler