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

We are relatively lucky. The national railway system continues to be in some disarray, but in Scotland it seems to be working a good deal better than elsewhere. The government decision to limit new franchises to a mere two years instead of the 20 year period previously anticipated may be a precautionary move until better equilibrium is restored, but it bodes ill for any appreciable improvements. Companies will have little incentive to embark on even modest, let alone major, projects without the context of a far wider vision.

All the more reason to urge members to make use of our railway service whenever they have the chance - especially the new winter Sunday service. Very much a case of "use it or lose it" as ScotRail have had to make clear. If, as now seems all too likely, the railways encounter a prolonged period of economic stringency, someone somewhere will raise the dismal spectre of a need to review the Public Service Obligation grants under which our line, like so many others, crucially depends. Many of us grumble about the cost of fares, understandably in the case of family groups, but the fact is these do not cover the full running costs.

To date the Strategic Railway Authority has proved a notable disappointment in many sectors - a pedestrian attitude to exerting authority, and still no Strategy Document. How can the railways flourish without energetic leadership? Diversion of road traffic to rail is supposedly a government priority, but I wouldn't hold your breath!

However, one of our members at least has criticised me for indulging in too much 'railway waffle', so I'll say no more. Probably just as well, for my views (not that they are of any consequence to anyone but myself, and certainly lay no claim to representing an official FoFNL view) have over the last twelve months threatened to approach incandescence . . . .

Use our trains, and persuade others to do the same. The Far North Line, for any perceived imperfections, is a lifeline and gives us an invaluable link with the rest of the UK, not to mention Europe.

Your Secretary