18 Dec 2021
Alastair Dalton asks: "What has happened to three-hour HS2 Scotland-London trips?" (Perspective, 17 December). In the Highlands we keep asking: "What has happened to the three-hour Inverness to Edinburgh rail passenger journey time?" This was promised as an average by December 2012 by First Minister Alex Salmond after the Cabinet meeting in Inverness on 5 August 2008. In December 2008 the Highland Main Line (HML) was to be third priority in the Strategic Transport Projects Review (STPR). The Queensferry crossing and the EGIP rail improvements (which were first and second priorities) have been delivered, but the HML remains crippled by long lengths of single track which limit capacity and cause knock-on delays.
The May 2022 timetable consultation suggests a few more minutes will need adding, increasing the average to 3 hours, 37 minutes, with an average speed of only around 50mph. The new STPR2 is to be published shortly. The word "Strategic" in its title should surely result in priority capacity improvements for this overcrowded line serving a huge swathe of Scotland, especially given the Climate Emergency objective to carry freight more sustainably, which means using rail or sea.
R J Ardern
21 Dec 2021
The letter from R J Ardern about the Highland Main Line (HML) is to the point (18 December). For a strategic "spine" route through hilly country it has been a conspicuous poor relation compared with main road investment. This began in the 1970s with a major realignment of the A9 and now dualling of lengthy stretches is proceeding at a cost of £8 billion.
When is the HML going to get some serious investment in these "carbon neutral" days? Good connectivity between Scotland's cities depends on faster times, which could be attained with the use of dynamic loops. However, it is worth noting that when the Highland Railway Company constructed the "Aviemore Deviation" in the 1890s - this would take the new line over Slochd Summit to Inverness - all the structures on it were and constructed with a view to the eventual doubling of the track. Those who travel the route continue to wait for this to happen.
Will electrification solve the problems and tie in with Net Zero? Some hope, when neither solar (mist and short day) nor wind is generating any power of consequence during the high pressure presence on 19-20 December.
(Dr) I A Glen
As one who served an apprenticeship as an auditor 50 years ago, I was trained to ask awkward questions.
Cannot quite reconcile in my mind 6 miles of A9 upgrade, including land purchase, at £96 million, with a few hundred yards of loop lengthening at Aviemore and Pitlochry, and associated signalling at £57 million. Can we see a bill of quantities?
Did the marketing department who put out the press release place the decimal point in the wrong place and the actual cost was £5.7 million?
Les Turner (FoFNL member)