25/02/2015 - HITRANS welcomes commitment to improved Highland services from new ScotRail operator, Abellio
Key stakeholders with an interest in the future of rail services in the Highlands are among the first in Scotland to meet the new operators of rail services in Scotland.
More than 50 rail users, politicians, council representatives and business people gathered at Inverness to meet representatives of Abellio, who from 1 April, take over the ScotRail franchise for the next 10 years.
They were guests of HITRANS, the regional transport partnership for the North of Scotland which represents local councils serving Orkney, Western Isles, Highland, Moray and Argyll and Bute.
HITRANS Vice-Chairman, Councillor Thomas Prag, The Highland Council, welcomed guests to the briefing. Councillor Prag said: “HITRANS are delighted to welcome Abellio to the Highlands. We very much look forward to working with them over the next 10 years to maintain the significant growth in rail travel in the Highlands.
"We have worked effectively with the current operators, First Group, in attracting investment to the Highland rail network and I have every confidence we will enjoy the same excellent working relationship with Abellio.
“In particular, we look forward to faster, more frequent and more comfortable trains being introduced on Highland services. Over the past 10 years we have seen a 57% growth in the use of rail services from Inverness and the very welcome reopening of the railway station at Conon Bridge. We will work closely with Abellio to ensure that the Highland community will benefit from improved rail services that will not only boost tourism but help people get more easily to work and to further education.”
Councillor Prag also welcomed a commitment by Abellio to upgrade Inverness railway station, with a feasibility study to be completed by the end of March, next year.
He added: “The significant investment promised for Inverness railway station is a great boost to Inverness and the Highlands.”
He introduced Mike Kean, UK Rail Development Director at Abellio, to present the company's plans for the ScotRail operation, focusing on the Highlands.
Mr Kean said: “We welcome the opportunity that HITRANS have given us to present on our future plans for ScotRail and how they relate to the Highlands. We view the Highlands as an integral part of Scotland’s national railway as well as a key player in the Scottish economy. During our bid for ScotRail we worked closely with HITRANS and I’m pleased that much of what I present this morning is consistent with the aspirations of their stakeholders.”