Highland Mainline Community Rail Partnership

Spring Newsletter

We wish you all a Happy and peaceful Easter and trust all our followers and their loved ones have managed to stay safe over the winter months during the latest Covid19 lockdown. And to survive the bitterly cold weather we had in February! We have all been Staying at Home since Christmas with essential travel only permitted and it is now over a year since we physically met as a group. However, with vaccinations underway and recent announcements from the Scottish Government, it looks like we will be travelling again later this Spring. Very excited about that. And to cheer us up, Channel 4 “Scotland’s Scenic Railways” is showing a re-edit on Sunday 4th April at 8pm of some of our escapades with the Atholl Highlanders in 2019.

Meetings by Zoom

We held our first Zoom meeting of 2021 in February and it was good to see everyone still in very good heart despite the Lockdown, the weather and the economy. We are just keen to get back on a train and travel and move along some of our projects. We hope we will soon be able to put the Recovery planning in place once travel restrictions are fully lifted which will hopefully be on April 26th.

Highland Mainline Community Rail Partnership

New Website

We had intended to launch our new website just before Christmas, however, as it was a difficult December, with rapid changes for everyone, we decided to hold off until the Springtime.

It is a great improvement from our original website, we hope you enjoy the full page and new layout. Once non-essential travel restrictions are lifted we have some additional pages on our communities to go up, which will hopefully be later this Spring.

We would like to thank all those who have contributed Archive photographs for our Gallery. There are some gems there and we are always happy to receive more. Our grateful thanks go to author Neil Sinclair, Jim Finnie of Atholl Country Life Museum and Aviemore local community.

Community Rail Scotland

The Community Rail Scotland Steering Group had a successful meeting with Transport Scotland and ScotRail in early 2021 as we try to plan for 2022 and move forward. We continue to make plans for the future of Community Rail in Scotland. We recently contributed to the RDG report on the Value of Community Rail, an interesting read on the first few years of community rail in Scotland.

Travelling Classroom Project

Our Resource Boxes and “Blether Bags” are ready and raring to go into our schools now that the children are filtering back.

Highland Mainline Community Rail Partnership

The Project is currently on hold until schools can get out and about but we continue to stay in contact and make plans.

News from our Stations

Dalwhinnie Station

We are still working in the Montgomery plaque and Station Clock and hope to progress once we can visit our Stations again.

Pitlochry Station

We are eagerly awaiting the Spring Flower Show from Station Adopters, Pitlochry in Bloom, which seems to be well underway.

Highland Mainline Community Rail Partnership
Highland Mainline Community Rail Partnership

This has been a challenging time for all businesses on the Highland Main Line, not least for Pitlochry Station bookshop, which sells donated books to customers in aid of six charities.

After the first lockdown last year, they re-opened on a part-time basis, and at that time, took in vast numbers of donations of books, hardback and paperback. So many people had been clearing their shelves, cupboards and houses of unwanted items, and yes, that included books. All the donated books had to be quarantined in the new bookstore for three days before they were transferred through to the main book shop for selling, and for a time, it seemed donations were overtaking sales!

The bookshop was forced to close again just before Christmas and has been closed ever since, because of Covid19 restrictions. What this has encouraged them to do, however, is to rethink some of the ways to bring money into the Bookshop. And this has taken them into the world of on-line selling for the first time, as well as into social media (Twitter and Facebook, eBay and Paypal). The books they are selling on-line are not the regular “bread-and-butter” hardbacks and paperbacks bought by local people or travellers who are about to board a train. Instead, they are mostly collectors’ items, curiosities, books of special interest, books that are precious gems if only the right person can be found to buy them, So they have been working to “track” down potential buyers on-line, and also share items across many channels.

The first sale of books on-line was a collection of motor-racing books, handed in by a friend of a local person, who had been a big name in motor-racing in the 1950’s and 60’s. The books went to a buyer in Kent; someone who had recently begun as an on-line bookseller and was looking to build their stock. Since then, they have sold (via eBay) a collection of Asterix books in French to an English dad with a French wife, the books will help their children hone their skills in the French language. And just last month they sold an Agatha Christie novel in Czech, thanks to Facebook, to a Pitlochry resident whose daughter-in-law is a Czech speaker.

Highland Mainline Community Rail Partnership
Highland Mainline Community Rail Partnership
Highland Mainline Community Rail Partnership
Highland Mainline Community Rail Partnership

Looking to the future, they hope to re-open at the end of April, again on a part-time basis initially. Customers will find the interior of the Bookshop much improved, thanks to the most recent lockdown. Shelves have been tidied, material that was unsellable removed and everything has had a good dust and deep clean. The shelving is now re-organised with new signage, making it easier for customers to find the book they are searching for. Things are looking up for the Bookshop, and they eagerly look forward to welcoming their loyal in-person and on-line customers in the year ahead.

The Bookshop would like to express thanks to all their supporters: ScotRail, Highland Mainline CRP, Pitlochry and Highland Perthshire Stations Liaison Group, Pitlochry Festival Theatre, The Green Park Hotel and Elizabeth Yule Transport. Without their support and help, they could not have achieved so much and your help allows them to support and help others through their charities.

Dunkeld & Birnam Station

At long last, the decision has been taken that this station will not be moving due to the A9 upgrade and perhaps a future can be planned for some community use of this listed building.

Update from Scottish Government on ScotRail post March 2022.

Michael Matheson MSP Cabinet Secretary for Transport, Infrastructure and Connectivity made an announcement in mid March to the Scottish Parliament about the future of ScotRail when the current franchise comes to an end on 31st March 2022.

When the current franchise ends ScotRail will move into public hands and will be operated by a public sector arms-length company owned and controlled by Scottish Ministers, under what is currently known as “Operator of last resort” provisions of current railway legislation.

The announcement was made in light of the uncertainty caused by COVID19 and the delayed and still ongoing UK Rail reform process. The Scottish Government do not consider it appropriate to award a franchise to any party as a result of this review.

ScotRail staff will transfer to this new company.


All of the decisions on which services operate are made in conjunction with Transport Scotland and in line with current COVID guidelines. As we have been unable to host any Stakeholder meetings we asked the TOC’s for an update on services on our line.

LNER Update

Click here for the latest update

Caledonian Sleeper Inverness Update

We had been asked about the Seated Coach service on our line. We received the following statement from them to answer your queries.

“We are currently working on our plans for how we re-introduce all services post lockdown. The removal of the Seated Coach was entirely based on ensuring the safety of our guests and teams. We continue to work with RSSB and the ORR on this matter, and the opening of the seated coach is constantly under review with all the relevant advisory bodies. At this time, we will not be offering the day service on the Fort William or Inverness lines as our Risk Assessments mandate that we must be able to control the number of people in the Seated Coach. This has been agreed with Transport Scotland, but we will of course keep this under review as and when social distancing restrictions change.”

ScotRail Update

Highland Mainline has had a further reduction in services with another two daily trains cut from the timetable. This is to be expected as Rail travel has plummeted to less than 10% of pre-pandemic passengers. Who knows how long it will take to get up to 2019 passenger levels?

Rail to Refuge

During the pandemic there has sadly been an increase in cases of domestic violence. The Rail to Refuge scheme was launched across the rail network as a result and ScotRail have been participating in the scheme. The scheme was due to end this week, but has been formally extended.

More information can be found here

As we come out of what has been a bitterly cold winter and head into Spring, we are remaining positive and looking ahead to the future for our Communities and re-opening for businesses. Please come and visit us when it is safe to do so.

Continued good wishes for 2021 from us all on Highland Main Line Community Rail Partnership team! Stay Well, Be Kind and give a Hug when it is safe to do so. We will see you on a train very soon!


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