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
Copy of a letter sent to RAIL magazine, published on 29th September.

Dornoch Bullet Train?

Once a myth is started, it seems to take wings and this is certainly true of the proposition (RAIL 492 p 31) that, if a Dornoch short cut were constructed, it would save 45 minutes on the journey time between Inverness and Thurso/Wick.

The current timetable allows a fastest time of 51 minutes for the 40 miles between Golspie and Tain with up to five stops and no train going in the opposite direction to be crossed. A new Dornoch Link would be 15 miles long. To do this in 6 minutes and thus achieve a 45 minute saving would therefore require an average speed of 150 miles per hour start to stop! Those who are constantly peddling this myth need to get real.

Reality has to take account of a stop at Dornoch, at least three level crossings, and the gradient and curve up to the south end of whatever bridge is to carry the line over the Dornoch Firth. Even if the new track were engineered for 75 mph running, it is unlikely that a time better than 18 minutes end to end could be achieved. The real saving would be around 30 minutes.

As for your assertion that this was a "former Highland freight branch", you should be aware that it was closed to both passengers and freight on 13 June 1960. There are many published photographs of the passenger and mixed trains latterly worked by Great Western pannier tanks 1646 and 1649. The local community has just released an excellent video featuring film of the trains in the Fifties and present day interviews with some of those who worked on the line, all very skilfully melded together. It is a model for other communities to copy.

Yours faithfully
R J Ardern
Editor's note:
The above letter, written in a personal capacity, remained unpublished until our Chairman sent a covering letter from FoFNL in which he made the following points:

'FoFNL is very concerned that unrealistic expectations are being raised by people who should know better. I (Richard Ardern) thought I had got the Rail Futures people to agree at a Rail Passengers Committee Scotland conference in February that their 45 minute claim was unsubstantiated. I was therefore particularly disappointed to see it reappear in your well read magazine. The result is that probably more people than ever will now take it as a fact."

'I gather that John Yellowlees of ScotRail wrote to Howard Johnston about this also and Howard was suitably contrite. However, the myth is still out there, and some sort of correction in your magazine would have the benefit of reaching a wide audience. Goodness knows, we need realism rather than hype in today's difficult times for railways."