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30/01/2018 - Funding in Place for Transformational Inverness Rail Station Upgrade

Delegates attending a major rail conference have been told that funding for the first phase of a major refurbishment of Inverness railway station is in place and work should be under way by late summer of this year.

Progress on the “transformational” project was reported by Peter O’Connell, ScotRail’s Head of Commercial Development, in a presentation to the annual rail conference staged by HITRANS, the Regional Transport Partnership for the Highlands and Islands, in Inverness on Monday (29 January).

Mr O’Connell said early investment would see improvements to Station Square, with tender documents issued to prospective contractors in the Spring.

Later phases would involve major improvements to the two other station entrances – on Strothers Lane, leading to Inverness Bus Station, and on Falcon Square, leading to the Eastgate Shopping Centre. This work was earmarked for Spring of 2019.  He indicated that the total investment in the railway station, including improvements to the main concourse and new retail units, would be in the region of £6 million.

He said the emphasis for improvements to Station Square would be making the area pedestrian friendly.  The Royal Highland Hotel, located in Station Square, would require 8 parking spaces but there would be no bus drop offs in the Square. Discussions would continue with the hotel owners in a bid to relocate their parking spaces away from Station Square. Alternatives such as increased parking provision at both Eastgate Falcon Gallery Car Parking and Rose Street Old Town Multi Storey Car Park have been offered to the Hotel.

Alex Hynes, Managing Director of ScotRail Alliance, told delegates that the railway station improvements would provide “a fantastic gateway to the city centre”.

Councillor Allan Henderson, Chairman of HITRANS, was delighted with the progress reported to the conference.  He said: “It is great news to hear that the funding is in place for this transformational project to get under way and that we now have timescales for taking it forward.”

Earlier in the conference, Mr Hynes said he was excited by the level of investment being made available for improvements on the rail network in Scotland.  It was his goal to take railways in Scotland “to the top of the leader board”.   

He reported that investment on the Far North Line had resulted in punctuality of services  increasing to 85.7% - the highest for some time.  As a result, ScotRail had benefited from a 7% increase in usage of the line.

A focus for ScotRail was to improve on-train catering and to increase reliability of ticket vending machines.  He said on-train catering on the West Highland Line would be in place by May of this year.

Peter Strachan, Chairman of Serco Caledonian Sleeper, gave delegates an update on the new rolling stock being introduced on the London services, including more comfortable seating, ensuite cabins with some exclusive cabins featuring a double bed.  He said bookings for the upgraded sleeper service would be available from late February and that he hoped the new rolling stock would be available on the Highlander service from late November.

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