The announcement of the Far North Line Review Team Final Report came at the beginning of November, more than six months later than we expected. It was worth the wait. Read the full report here.
The prospects for the FNL are exciting with a completely revised service pattern which will give an hourly service between Tain and Inverness and a half-hourly peak service between Dingwall and Inverness. Commuting will become much more attractive and reliable. The provision of the Lentran Loop is key to this and something we have been campaigning for for many years.
The 'Next Big Thing' is the Transport Scotland's Strategic Transport Projects Review 2. The original STPR was published in December 2008 and from the point of view of rail it has partially failed, since work on the Highland Main Line, the third most important project identified out of the 29 listed for all modes, has scarcely been started, while items one and two are complete. The HML work was announced in 2008 for completion by 2012, extended in 2011 to 2025! We make no apologies for mentioning the HML all the time. It is our most important connecting route for business, freight, leisure and tourism yet it is still mostly single track and diesel operated. Even the limited amount of work that has been done has been inadequate from the freight point of view. STPR2 is the Scottish Government's chance to very publicly state that to address climate change rail projects have to be given priority over road. This includes the prestigious opportunity to reopen the direct route from Perth to Edinburgh which was closed in 1970 to facilitate the building of the M90 - unthinkable now!
The other major news since the last issue of FNE is the early termination of Abellio's contract to run ScotRail. As heavily involved rail campaigners, even we do not know the full picture, but the fact that this has happened should give politicians and the media pause for thought. By their utterances on the subject there are many in both fields who simply do not take the time to understand the way the railway works before speaking or going into print. In this way they have nurtured a kind of national shorthand: "Blame ScotRail for all rail problems". This helps no-one. We can understand that journalists are always looking for a good story and that it is part of the job of opposition MSPs to make political capital out of government difficulties, but there is no excuse for anyone to wilfully ignore basic railway-operation facts.