On 1 November the long-awaited Far North Line Review Team Report was signed off by ministers and its plans published by Transport Scotland.
Because of the way projects are now managed, the main infrastructure work is not listed in detail as it is still going through early development work.
Unlike previous Control Periods where projects were announced by Transport Scotland before some of the detailed work had been done, and were therefore at risk of running over budget, definite commitment will now be given once all the costs are known. This is the 'pipeline' approach, where projects which will be started in the current Control Period (CP6) are not yet officially committed.
From the point of view of campaigners, such as FoFNL, this can be frustrating. Suffice to say at this point that, given that the likely cost of the works outlined in the Report is already known, and that the whole new service specification (timetable and service pattern) which has been agreed in the Report depends on the infrastructure work, such as the Lentran Loop, being done, it is hard to see a scenario in which it will not take place. We just hope it's pretty soon!
Working collaboratively local stakeholders and the railway industry have developed an exciting programme of improvements to the Far North Line which delivers benefits for passengers and local communities.
The Far North Line Review Group [Team] has successfully driven a range of benefits along the route, as well as a potential programme of further improvements which are now under early development work.
Achievements to date include improved safety and journey time benefits, as well as customer service enhancements.
Bill Reeve, Transport Scotland's Director of Rail and chair of the Review Group said:
"The Group has been an exemplar of good practice with the industry and local stakeholders each contributing expertise and knowledge to deliver a shared ambition to maximise the potential of the Far North Line for passengers, communities and businesses along the route.
"By building on the achievements to date, the Far North Line will yield economic benefits from improved services and infrastructure by encouraging more rail use by passengers and by freight operators."
Ian Budd, Convener, Friends of the Far North Line said:
"The Far North Line Review Team was set up in response to issues raised by FoFNL's 2016 Consultant's Report and proved to be an extremely effective vehicle for identifying and tackling the many problems being experienced on the line.
"The workings of the group were exemplary and it was a pleasure to be involved.
"FoFNL is delighted that the Review Team's task is now complete and that work on implementing its recommendations is about to proceed."
Network Rail is now developing a Strategic Business Case for improvements to services on the Far North Line. Once this concludes, Transport Scotland will assess the deliverability and affordability of the detailed options for potential implementation during future rail funding periods.