2012 FoFNL AGM, Convener's Report
We went into the year just gone without Conon Bridge station and we are still without it. Another one hundred thousand pounds is now being spent on detailed design and, who knows, by this time next year, we may have evidence of something actually happening. We will continue to campaign for the station's reopening. We will also continue campaigning for the enhancements of train services not only on the Far North Line itself but also on the routes into Inverness from the south and the east. Sadly, the hopes which we had that we would be able to obtain a reduced-rate business case for the hourly Inverness - Tain service did not come to fruition, so this is still stalled. However, we have proved to the rail industry that it is possible to run a near-hourly service and we challenge them to get on and actually do it. Further, with some modest infrastructure improvements, it could be a true hourly service.
Following last year's Annual General Meeting, the committee co-opted three additional members as the constitution allows.
As the constitution requires, we held three committee meetings in the year just gone, two in Edinburgh and one in Inverness. We attempted telephone conferencing but we had to abort it for technical reasons. We are most grateful to Network Rail for allowing use of a meeting room on Edinburgh Waverley station, which has helped to keep down the administrative costs of running the society. One of the Edinburgh meetings was unique in that it was on a single subject: Rail 2014. In November, 2011, through Transport Scotland, the Scottish Government began a consultation process with rail users and stakeholders to ask them to play their part in shaping Scotland's rail services with passenger interests at their heart. In 2014, both the current contract for rail passenger services (ScotRail) and the funding arrangements for Network Rail in Scotland are due to come to an end and new arrangements have to be in place. The consultation document provided details of how the railway in Scotland operates today and set out the questions and options being considered for the future. The Friends of the Far North Line made a full response to this consultation document following that Edinburgh committee meeting. Subsequent to this, FoFNL was invited to give evidence to the Scottish Parliament's Infrastructure and Capital Investment Committee on 14th March this year. We provided an advance submission to it which outlined the way in which we felt we would wish Scotland's railways to develop in the future and, at the meeting, answered questions posed by the Members. We were the only route-specific user group invited to give evidence to the Committee. Full details of our input to the process have been posted on our website and copies of the various documents are available here.
As members are aware, the retirement of our long-standing newsletter editor, Roger Piercy, at last year's AGM meant that we had to put new arrangements in place. I am sure that members will join me in thanking the new editor, Tony Jervis, for the high standard of the newsletters. Tony, as you will know, is unable to continue in the role long term. This is most unfortunate and I'm sure that members will join me in wishing him well for the future. I would also like to thank other committee members who have been involved in the distribution of the newsletter, in particular, Iain MacDonald, who has collected them from the printer, stuffed them into envelopes and then posted them. The success of the newsletters is down to the contributors and I repeat my plea of the past to keep the articles coming in, please.
Committee members have continued to further the interests of the society by attending various meetings around the country and I thank them for this. We have tried to keep the society and its aims in the public spotlight and will continue to do so in the forthcoming year.