02/03/2015 - Points North - North Highland Lines Seminar
An audience comprising MPs, MSPs, councillors and community councils and other key rail stakeholders discussed for proposals for improving the reliability of passenger and freight rail services between Inverness and the Far North and to Kyle at a seminar held at Dingwall today (Monday 2 March).
The event was organised by HITRANS, the regional transport partnership for the North of Scotland, to help restore the confidence of the travelling public in rail services in the North.
HITRANS organised the event in response to concerns expressed by rail users about the reliability of the services between Inverness and Wick/Thurso and also to Kyle.
A number of suggestions were noted for action to improve reliability and restore journey times following presentations by HITRANS, ScotRail and Network Rail and a question and answer session.
HITRANS Chair Cllr James Stockan (Orkney) explained that the seminar had been called to help explain the reasons for recent poor performance and the introduction of a new winter timetable in December, 2014.
He said: ”It is vital that the railway to Wick and Kyle is able to reliably serve the needs of communities up and down the line enabling travel for work education and leisure, and of course enabling freight traffic to shift from our roads. We need to restore the confidence of the travelling public in rail services in the North. HITRANS is keen to play its role in this process.”
At the seminar, ScotRail stressed the new timetable followed a comprehensive review and was specifically designed to improve the Far North Line performance and resilience, and to address the overall reliability of journey times for its customers.
And John Kerr, its head of timetable compliance and resilience, also emphasised that there are clear signs the new timetable “was creating a more reliable service while making best use of the infrastructure and resources available.”
A ScotRail spokesman said: “Working closely with Network Rail and Transport Scotland, we created a timetable aimed at giving local people and visitors a timetable they can rely on in the short to medium term. We are committed to further improvement and will continue efforts to improve journey times on these routes.”
A spokesman for Network Rail said: “We are currently assessing, as a matter of priority, what options may be available for reducing journey times on the Far North line. We are assessing a range of factors such as where train speeds on the line can be increased and how changes in infrastructure, such as enhanced level crossings, can create opportunities to further improve line speeds.”