Sir – We should welcome the excellent news of the creation of a marine energy park in Caithness and the Orkneys, to fully exploit the fantastic resources offered by the Pentland Firth.
However, this once again highlights the need to upgrade our transport links to and from Caithness.
While this of course includes the A9 road, the Inverness to Thurso/ Wick railway line must also undergo a massive upgrade to bring it into line with 21st century expectations for a fast, reliable, comfortable, sustainable and modern transport of first choice.
Upgraded railway lines have demonstrated their worth in terms of greatly developed, thriving and prosperous economies in the areas they serve, and it is critically important that this is done for Caithness, Sutherland and the Orkneys.
We should use the opportunity provided by both the creation of the marine energy park and the most welcome construction of the Georgemas Junction railway terminal, with consequent massive opportunities for rail freight expansion on our line, to press hard for major upgrades to our line with a focus on capacity improvements and journey time reductions.
Our recent public survey has confirmed that rail users and the general public massively support both journey time reductions on the existing line and also the much quoted Dornoch Rail Link.
Shorter rail journey times for both passengers and freight, as brought about by the link and other line upgrades, will enable much faster connectivity to Inverness, Edinburgh and London for leisure and business travel, and also lead to much better and more cost effective utilisation of freight capacity leading in turn to lower costs for freight customers.
We congratulate Direct Rail Services for setting up the Georgemas Junction freight terminal, and everyone should give them all the help they can to help make the case for an improved Far North Line.
There are already encouraging signs of progress to this effect.
We call on all interested parties, including HITRANS, Transport Scotland and the Scottish Government, to take firm and positive steps to upgrade our railway line and implement major upgrades to it, including the link. The massive opportunities outlined above will enable retention of the Lairg Loop as well as the link, in ways not easily realisable before.
In conclusion, we are now witnessing excellent progress in major rail upgrades in England including the Midland Main Line electrification and the Great Western electrification extension to Swansea. Let’s do the same for Scotland, starting at the top with the Far North Line for the above reasons and also implementing previously promised rail upgrades elsewhere in Scotland. SNP, take note, please!
Mark W Norton,
convener, Dornoch Rail Link Action Group,