Highland Mainline Community Rail Partnership

Summer Newsletter

Highland Mainline Community Rail Partnership

"The Summer Solstice"
Sunrise at 04.17am at Culloden Viaduct on the Highland Main Line.
Photo courtesy of Julie Hindlay

We would like to convey our deepest sympathy and condolences to those bereaved by the Stonehaven derailment. Our thoughts go out to all those involved in this tragedy.

We hope all our followers and their loved ones have stayed safe over the past few months during the COVID-19 Pandemic and total Lockdown. It is very surreal looking back over the past few months since March. We had just attended a ScotRail Tourism meeting in Inverness on the 12th March and were looking forward to a bumper summer season on our line, reaping the rewards of “Highland Fling” last year at King’s Cross in London, the new LNER Azuma operating the “Highland Chieftain” service and lots of other wonderful events happening. Our own plans of visiting the Control Centre in Glasgow and enjoying the Glasgow Central Tour with Paul Lyons quickly evaporated as well as our hopes to host some of the Social Media team up here during the Spring months. Sadly, we haven’t been able to meet up, our end of March meeting was swiftly cancelled and the Travelling Classroom Project brought to an abrupt halt.

Cairngorms National Park had just held their Climate Conference – Net Zero with Nature. 180 delegates attended to address the climate crisis and what needs to happen in the Cairngorms National Park to tackle the issues. A very pertinent subject for our railway line.

Highland Mainline Community Rail Partnership

We have recently ventured back to the Stations as Station Adopters and had been keeping an eye on things as part of our daily walks for exercise during Lockdown. However, most of us have been busy dealing with our families, businesses, staff, local Community Support Groups, Food Banks, Food Share and a raft of other Community efforts. Now that we are in Phase 3, perhaps we will be on trains shortly?

With Spring and Summer meetings all cancelled and not much chance of an actual AGM, we have been using Zoom to keep in touch during Lockdown, it seemed to work well and certainly concentrates the mind.

Highland Mainline Community Rail Partnership

Good news

We had fortunately been assisting the Research team at Britespark Media, who were here in the snow in February, well for one week anyway, filming the Highland Main Line for their TV series – The World’s Most Scenic Railway Journeys. The programme went out on Channel 5 during Lockdown with Bill Nighy narrating and reminded us all of happier days. Starring our great friend John Yellowlees. It cheered us all up!

Highland Mainline Community Rail Partnership

Slochd flooding work

There have been lots of positive things happening during 2020 on our patch and close by, not least work at Slochd and new log freight trials further north. And we read with interest the new electrification proposal.

Highland Mainline Community Rail Partnership

Electrification Proposal

Great news, from page 37 of the Transport Scotland New Action Plan to decarbonise Scotland’s Railway by 2035 "Connecting Aberdeen and Inverness to the Central Belt. By 2035 we plan to have fully electrified routes from the central belt to both Aberdeen and Inverness east." Learn more about the plan.

New log freight trial

Article from the August @TheRailwayMagazine on the Norboard freight proposals.

Highland Mainline Community Rail Partnership

Travel Guidance

Scotland’s Railway is playing a critical role in helping our country emerge from the Coronavirus pandemic - providing safe transport for those who need to travel by train. Find out more information from Scotrail here.

STOP PRESS from Roy Brown, our Vice Chair.

Following the guidelines I had not travelled by train in almost six months. On the 1st of September, I needed to travel to Edinburgh so I booked my train ticket online and loaded it onto my smartcard. The sun was shining as the southbound 09:13 Carrbridge train arrived on time. There was lots of space so social distancing was not a problem. Fellow passengers were all wearing face masks and respecting other peoples space. Pete the conductor did a great job keeping everyone safe and happy. There was a feeling everyone was trying their best to reduce risk to themselves and fellow travellers. I changed trains at Perth and again there was plenty of space onboard. Arriving into Edinburgh Waverley around midday, the station was strangely quiet and easy to walk through safely with lots of signage and segregation on the walkways. In many ways, it was one of the least remarkable train journeys that I have had. Many thanks to Scotrail, Network Rail Scotland and my fellow travellers.

Highland Mainline Community Rail Partnership

Travelling Classroom

We had just launched our project on World Book Day, helped along by Michel Lintermans, visiting from the Netherlands and were about to take our first School trip out on the train on April 22nd, involving 3 Primary schools, when Lockdown happened. The children were so excited about this, so we do hope that can eventually happen, even though they have moved up a year. We have continued to deal with paperwork and the gathering of resources for the schools and would thank LNER for signing off the project, even though we had to put it on hold for now. Michel was here, courtesy of the Dutch Transport Minister, to look at a possible twinning programme of the Highlands of Scotland with the Lowlands of Holland, hopefully, that too can be picked up in future.

We have continued working on the Administration of the project, all books and resources have been purchased and distributed to the schools involved so far. And shortly we will have a dedicated section on our website outlining what we can assist our local schools with.

Highland Mainline Community Rail Partnership

Good News from our Stations

Kingussie Station

Cycle Friendly Kingussie ( under the auspices of KDC – Kingussie Community Development Company) have secured funding from Sustrans as part of their “Places for Everyone” grant scheme to develop plans to improve the Spey Street/Ruthven Road junction. They have now received design proposals and are sharing these with key stakeholders and the community. The overarching concept is to make the junction more pedestrian and cycle friendly, along with high quality public realm gateway feature for visitors arriving into Kingussie Railway Station and the Speyside Way. The proposals include a significant reduction in size of the bell mouth, which in turn provides space for new paving and footway area. These proposals will link into the work being undertaken in the Gynack Memorial Park.

Pitlochry Station

The Pitlochry Station Bookshop Extension has been put forward for a National Railway Heritage Trust Award and was recently judged. The Bookshop group managed to fund raise for custom built shelving which they have now installed and it is looking amazing. We are so glad to have this facility in current times. Books can now be safely stored for 72 hours before being sorted. The Bookshop has re-opened and early signs are good, the Charities rely on the monies raised by the Volunteers and their first day saw income back to pre-Covid levels, let us hope this continues.

As soon as it was safe to do so the Station Adopters, Pitlochry in Bloom, were back in action. We did have a beautiful Spring show, so the Station floral displays looked stunning until late May. A few photos of what you missed!

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

The external works are all completed on the Northbound Pavilion and it looks amazing. A big thank you to NRHT and Network Rail for doing us proud. During the quiet time, lots of painting done by others, so everything is looking pristine and beautiful and ready for our visitors to enjoy.

We also just heard, surprisingly, that Pitlochry Railway Station has been shortlisted for a National Rail Award again in 2020, along with Aberdour and Haymarket. Congratulations to them.

Update from ScotRail on HST’s

The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted both on the refurbishment of the fleet of High Speed Trains by the supplier and driver training. Unfortunately this will further delay introduction of the new timetable. 20 inter7city HSTs have now been delivered and all of the unrefurbished “classic” sets withdrawn. By December most HML services will be operated by inter7city HST’s. There is a minimum six month delay to the programme of driver training. Whilst drivers were in place to operate the new timetable, the training delay means there are no longer new staff passing out to replace drivers who leave ( which is predominantly due to retirals). ScotRail will update us on timescales for introducing the new timetable once driver training has fully resumed and there are firm delivery dates for the remaining HST.

AGM by Zoom

We hope to have an AGM later this year and at least sign off 2019. Like many organisations, we have to get our finances checked and reports written up, difficult when some folk were self-isolating and offices were locked or closed. We are almost there.

Highland Mainline Community Rail Partnership

"The Pass of Killiecrankie in all its autumn splendour"
It will be like this very soon when you go through it on the Highland Main Line.
Photo courtesy of Sandy Sutherland of Highland Exposure Photography.

Very best wishes from us all on Highland Main Line Community Rail Partnership team! Stay Safe.


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