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Highland rail network faces 'increasing cancellations' due to cuts to Network Rail budget, argues union members

By Philip Murray

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The RMT has voiced concern over cuts to Network Rail budgets.
The RMT has voiced concern over cuts to Network Rail budgets.

Cuts to Network Rail's budget increase the likelihood of railway line failures and train cancellations, Highland RMT members have warned after more disruption this week.

The union's Inverness secretary, Conor Cheyne, made the warning after the Far North Line was partially closed for four days this week after exceptionally high spring tides and waves damaged sea defences north of Brora.

The line reopened on Friday after Network Rail Scotland installed 350 additional tonnes of rock armour to protect the line at Lothbeg.

But the RMT says cuts to maintenance and investment budgets are increasing pressure on the network, and risking making reliability issues across the north worse.

It comes just months after Network Rail Scotland announced it was axing plans for a new multi-million pound road bridge to replace a deadly level crossing in Easter Ross at Delny.

The organisation said the rising cost of the project no longer made it viable.

Elsewhere, there has also been increasing uncertainty over plans for a new passing loop on the Far North Line between Inverness and Beauly after confirmation of the work kept being pushed back – with any confirmation not now expected until after the start of the new financial year in April at the earliest, a date which has only added to perceptions that budgets are being squeezed.

And now the RMT's Conor Cheyne has warned that budget cuts and redundancies are "coming thick and fast" – and that this is increasing the likelihood of derailments on the Scottish network.

He explained that to combat this, more trains are being cancelled – something which risks being of greater impact on rural communities like those in the north "who rely on them".

He said: "We must ensure safe and reliable railways for everyone in Scotland but none more so than the communities in the Highlands.

"We urge members of the public to contact their MSPs and MPs to demand a reverse to the devastating cuts to Network Rail."

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