Imagine we are the campaign group for the reopening of the long closed FNL. We've seen with the Borders Railway Project how a case can be made for a railway: economic growth, safety, energy efficiency, speed, comfort, tourism.
This railway would be a major link between Scotland's northernmost city, many towns and villages in Caithness and Sutherland, and Orkney. Besides business traffic, commuter services and tourism the railway would be able to provide vital access to education, health and professional services as well as a safe and economic way of transporting hazardous and bulky freight, thus making the roads safer for local residents and visitors.
We've seen how it's possible to motivate planners and encourage government investment in a very desirable public project. Our route is more than five times as long, there are some large projects required en route - bridging the Kyle of Sutherland at Invershin for example. There are 21 stations to reopen, we will need several trains, and then we will need staff to run the trains and maintain the railway. This is turning into a very expensive project. No, wait! - we already have almost all of this - the rails are there, the bridges built, the trains are running.
Suddenly this is very affordable indeed. A few million would buy the necessary doubling of the track along some lengths, the installation of dynamic passing loops, the replacement of worn-out track and the employment of enough staff to run the trains. While we're at it some trains of a high enough standard would be very welcome too. For a fraction of the cost of providing the people of the Borders with the modern railway they so badly needed the same could be done for the people of the Far North of Scotland.
Whilst applauding the Scottish Government for its foresight in recognising the essential nature of the railway to the Borders community it would be good to think that it isn't only excited by new and impressive projects but also by the idea of being able to provide something equally worthwhile in other parts of Scotland.
In the meantime part of FoFNL's work is to encourage people to use the line. We can only promote something that's working properly, no amount of persuasion from FoFNL members will encourage people to use the FNL if it continues to be so unreliable.
There have been many instances in recent months of services being cancelled and replaced by various forms of road transport. Often 25% of a day's trains have not run. Perhaps ScotRail should imagine the following scenario:
A couple have booked an all-inclusive weekend away only to find on arrival that they have been allocated to a dormitory and will be served beans on toast for dinner - no refund offered. Their protests are met with a puzzled reply suggesting that they were given somewhere to sleep and didn't starve so 'what was the problem?'