In 1996 I departed from the island fastness of Hoy where what purports to be my luxury home is located. Together with my bicycle we travelled first on one ferry, a small one, and then on a larger vessel to The Scottish Mainland. Arriving at Thurso there was time to take a leisurely cycle ride through the town, stopping to purchase a portion of fish and chips before boarding the Inverness train. My trusty bicycle, safely ensconced in the guard's van, I was able to settle onto the well upholstered seat and begin to banish what can only be described as the familiar warm and comforting odour of carriage seating with my fish and chips. A connection at Inverness took me to Edinburgh, where in the "wee small hours" I boarded a train bound for Cornwall. The next day, with my bicycle, I stepped down from the train in Penzance. We had travelled the whole length of the country from the Far North to the Far South in a fraction over 24 hours, at a cost of £137.50, plus £3.00 for my bicycle. This was the return fare, I have the framed tickets before me now. "Oh, what date?" you ask, well it was 20 May 1996, the last day before the railway system was irrevocably broken up. Now, more than twenty five years later, nothing meets up anymore and it takes me two days and an overnight stay in a hotel to get from Inverness to my home on Hoy.
In the January Far North Express (88) there is an article detailing how it has taken nearly nine months to replace the roof on what can only be described as a "bus shelter" at Muir of Ord. Another article informs us that "Logs on Lines" is delayed because there are still no wagons available. There is a mention of "private waiting rooms" from the past glory days of train travel, and on another page a photo of the waiting passenger accommodation at Conon Bridge; Yet another of those joyless bus shelters with walls that finish four inches above the ground and chill the ankles. Finally on the back page there is a brief biography of Robert Garrow and what he achieved. Reading it tells us all we need to know really.
As a pensioner I now can travel anywhere in Scotland by bus, free gratis and for nothing.
"Yes, but we still need an expensive, time consuming, consultation exercise to discover how we can attract more customers for the railways."
O tempora, O mores.
Paul Tiney (FoFNL member)