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
Radio Extends Times at Brora (RETB*)

The bad weather on Wednesday 10 December 2014 was popularly known as a "weather bomb" caused by an unusually deep low pressure which deepened explosively and coincided with high tides and a storm surge. Network Rail, in consultation with ScotRail, closed both lines north of Inverness for the day although a service between Inverness and Dingwall did start running again from late afternoon.

The closure prevented two of your committee (and others) from travelling to Thurso where ironically a meeting had been arranged to discuss the poor timekeeping issues over the past few months. Two meetings are now being planned for the new year, one in Caithness and a wider one perhaps in Dingwall.

With hindsight it is easy to wonder whether the total closure was necessary and all FoFNL would say on that point is that it would have been useful to try to keep, as a minimum, the commuter services going between Tain and Inverness as these are used by the greatest traffic flows on the line. Most passengers have endured months of delays, but for the commuters this has been a daily occurrence.

Possibly the problem lies with lack of resources to "prove" or snowplough our long straggly lines? There are four lines out from Inverness and generally only one or two locomotives are available to do this. If a loco has been sent to Kyle and a recently cleared line to, say, Aviemore fills in again, it takes a long time to get the Kyle crew back again. Trains have been damaged by fallen trees in recent years so caution in response to unprecedented weather forecasts is understandable.

The weather bomb was responsible for a large number of lightning strikes over the Highlands. One of these is thought to have melted the RETB (*Radio Electronic Token Block) aerial at Brora and caused serious delays in obtaining the radio electric token block signal for trains to proceed at that locus. The antenna was changed and positioned two feet higher. We understand it was a seriously cold and uncomfortable job for the NR staff in heavy snow. Passengers have cause to be grateful to all the staff who turn out to fix the lines and the trains even in the worst of weather.

Richard Ardern