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

Press Coverage

Proposals to get Conon Bridge back on track as a rail stop are set to come under the spotlight today when Transport Minister Stewart Stevenson attends a meeting of interested parties in Inverness.

With significant housing development already under way and more in the pipeline, Conon is amongst the fastest-growing communities in Ross-shire.

Its location has made it popular with commuters who work in Inverness, and the fact that it is set to benefit from a brand new primary school won't go unnoticed by families in the market for new property.

These factors alone suggest there's much merit in the prospect of getting the village back on track in terms of the rail network. There's a recent precedent in Beauly which, by all accounts, has never looked back.

The spectre of traffic chaos caused by the delayed but still inevitable resurfacing work needed for the Kessock Bridge has also helped focus minds on the potential benefits of improving the public transport options available to local people. Bus services in some areas have been shambolic to say the least.

The pressure on public finances is well documented and has already been trotted out as a stock excuse for putting the kybosh on all manner of schemes.

Discussion on the Conon rail issue to date has, regrettably, tended to get bogged down in tat-for-tat exchanges about who is, and is not, responsible for picking up the tab for various elements of the project.

That sort of bickering is an enormous turn-off for an increasingly disillusioned public who would prefer to see imaginative thinking and joint working employed to get things done. Joined-up thinking used to be the buzz phrase when it came to issues like this.

As those with a genuine interest in setting the wheels in motion gather around the table, let's have a bit more of that and a bit less passing the buck.

Hector MacKenzie, Editor, Ross-shire Journal 11.9.2010

Minister's visit takes Conon rail revival a step nearer to reality

Transport supremo confirms finance being amassed for project

By Cheryl Livingstone, Press & Journal
Published: 11/09/2010

Plans to reopen Conon Bridge railway station took a step forward yesterday after Transport Minister Stewart Stevenson travelled to the Highland capital to discuss ways of funding the project.

At the council's headquarters in Inverness, Mr Stevenson met representatives from Highland Council, transport agency HiTrans and Conon Bridge Community Council to discuss funding proposals for the station, which closed 50 years ago.

Highland Council was recently involved in a row with Highland MSP Dave Thompson, who could not attend yesterday's meeting, over who should fund the reopening of the station.

Speaking after the meeting, Mr Stevenson said steps were now being taken to move the project forward.

He said that HiTrans had offered £25,000 towards to the project and that the Scottish Government was looking to add to that sum.

He said: "The Scottish Government has begun to look to see if we can find the next £120,000 that is required to meet the estimated price for Conon Bridge station.

"It's clear that this station has received a lot of community support and the government will now work with Highland Council to find the funding that will take this project forward."

Mr Stevenson said the next stage would consider the design and work with Network Rail at looking to reintegrate it into the train network.

He added that Network Rail had not indicated how long it would take or how much it will cost.

It is hoped that the new station will encourage more people to leave their cars at home and ease the congestion on many of the surrounding area's roads. Dave Duthie, director of HiTrans, said that they would work with the minister and council to progress the project.

Alister MacKinnon, chairman of the Conon Bridge community council, said: "It was very effective and I was delighted with the way it worked. We don't have a station yet, but we are on our way."