Highland Mainline Community Rail Partnership

Summer Newsletter

Apologies for the lateness of our Summer news, surprisingly a few of us have lately had COVID, amazing after two and a half years of avoiding it! Don’t think we can blame our first meeting for that though.

We enjoyed having our first face to face meeting in mid May at the Atholl Centre in Pitlochry, the first since February 2019. We have a couple of new faces joining the CRP this year, a belated Welcome to Claudia Stuerck of Tactrans and Fiona McInally, our Community Support Officer from the Cairngorms National Park. We also welcomed Alan Brooking, NR Community Rail Safety Officer to join us and discuss rail safety for children, which seems to be an increasing issue of late.

Highland Mainline Community Rail Partnership

L to R back row : Allan Brooking NR Community Officer, John Wilson ScotRail Community Liaison, Ailsa Schofield CRP Secretary
Seated L-R : Sally Spaven CRP Chair, Fiona McInally, CNPA Community Support Officer. Behind the camera Kate Howie CRP Treasurer!

In late May, we finally got an update from ScotRail about our future, but since then Rail Strikes, COVID and summer planting at our Stations have dominated the agenda. However, with most of that behind us now, we can report on what we have been up to since Easter.

Community Rail Week


We had a most successful and enjoyable day at Waverley Station on May 26th, joining forces with the Borders Community Rail Partnership, and Stow Trust. Despite the impending strikes, we gave out and received positive feedback on travelling by train, gave out masses of promotional material, chatted with the BTP and best of all gave out nearly 300 of Network Rail Thomas the Tank Rail Safety books to children, these were particularly well appreciated. Stow Trust brought along one of their Electric Bikes, now available to hire and we hope to repeat this exercise again this summer, possibly in August. We were joined by John Wilson - ScotRail and Denise Havard and Alice Mannion of Community Rail Network.

Highland Mainline Community Rail Partnership
Highland Mainline Community Rail Partnership

Neil Sinclair – Author - Highland Railway Buildings – 24th June


We had a wonderful launch of Neil’s latest book on the Highland Railway at Pitlochry Bookshop on the morning of the Friday, the week of the strikes. This was sandwiched between a Strathspey meeting in Aviemore and the Perth Model Railway Show. We thank Keith Fenwick of the Highland Railway Society for his help in organising this and we got to meet Ann Mary Paterson at last in the afternoon. We would like to thank Fishers Hotel for sponsoring the excellent talk Neil gave on our line in the hotel.

Highland Mainline Community Rail Partnership

Photo courtesy of Brian Toner

Passenger and Visitor numbers


As always we did ask just before this newsletter how the Highland Main Line was performing since our last update, and for those of you who love graphs, we attach the latest so you can view what is actually happening.

Here are the figures from January to July 2022. The 2022 peak in week 14 (which is preceded by a dip) in the first week in April was caused by an accounting requirement, the last week in March being 4 days and the first week in April being 9 days. The impact of the emergency timetable from week 20 can be clearly seen as can the impact of the NR strikes in week 25.

Highland Mainline Community Rail Partnership

The second graph shows from January 2020 to end of June 2022 and shows HML journey broken down by:
- Commuter - journeys on season ticket and flexipass
- Peak - journeys on anytime singles and returns
- Off peak - all other tickets

Highland Mainline Community Rail Partnership

The Mar- May 2020 and Dec-Mar 2021 lockdowns can clearly be seen. Interestingly the Omicron variant didn’t seem to have any impact – on the key that is the period from 2022/P10 to 2022P13 (December to March 2022)

At long last we are back on the Summer timetable, from July 20th and hope some of the issues will be resolved, namely the overcrowding on certain services as mentioned previously. We have been advised that for the meantime we are stuck with some short trains, as carriages cannot be released to our route without causing problems elsewhere, but a better timetable should alleviate this.

The 10.57 Inverness to Edinburgh service is still very busy, it is the ideal time for visitors heading south and was the most popular throughout last year, ScotRail listened and it has not had advance bookings made on it since last June. Also it is very popular with tour groups, so this has been stopped – there are only three more days where tour groups will have reserved seats on board. The number of cheap advance tickets on the 08.45 and 09.47 have been increased and ScotRail are investigating if the 08.45 departure can be re-classified as an Off-Peak service. Station staff have been briefed to direct customers to the much cheaper journey opportunities on earlier services. We have long questioned Peak Time Travel restrictions on non-commuter routes as you will be aware and would like to thank the ScotRail team we have been talking to for listening to our concerns and trying to alleviate them to help passengers.

Passenger numbers have been on a slow, but steady rise since the beginning of the year. This is good news, and we hope it will continue as travellers return to the railways. Of immediate concern is lack of staffing on certain weekends, when our Stations are now busiest and lack of customer service at unstaffed stations.

Carrbridge Station


The cycle rack is finally back in situ, sadly it has been put back in exactly the same location as previously, where it was constantly getting hit by reversing vehicles!

Pitlochry Station Bookshop


The Pitlochry Station Bookshop goes from strength to strength as it becomes famous world wide due to all the wonderful television coverage we have enjoyed over the past few years, the Visitors Book contains some wonderful comments from bloggers and journalists who have travelled specially to visit. This increase in publicity, combined with Social Media is resulting in increased sales and therefore much needed increase in funds for their charities. The Bookshop provides a warm and welcoming local presence at our Station which is sadly, increasingly unstaffed.

Highland Mainline Community Rail Partnership

We welcomed The Midland Pullman last weekend, stopping at Pitlochry and Aviemore. What a beautiful train, Bobbie the Bookshop Manager, took these wonderful photos whilst trying to blag her way onto the train! We also had our regular visitor the Royal Scotsman passing through later in the afternoon, we just love having these stunning trains travelling along the Highland Main Line.

Highland Discovery App - Update


“This summer we are excited to be working alongside both the volunteers at the Cateran EcoMuseum as well as Perth & Kinross Countryside Trust. This will expand the number of walking routes featured on the Highland Discovery app. We hope that these new routes which are due to include the Cateran Trail will make excellent new additions to the existing 30 routes, encouraging more folk to get outside and explore their local area.”

Finally

We have had one offer from a prospective new CRP volunteer, but we could still do with someone to assist with Station Adoption, we currently have no representatives at Newtonmore and Aviemore.

We have made a short video to promote the work of the Community Rail Partnerships and what we have learned over the past 7/8 years.

Also, we are aware of great frustration and annoyance in Dunkeld & Birnam due to the continuing dereliction of the Railway Station buildings. If anyone is interested in setting up a local group, say a “Friends” group, please get in touch with us. We have a couple of people already known to us, but the more the better. This Station is under the control/ownership of Network Rail, not ScotRail just for clarity.

We wish everyone a very enjoyable and hopefully long Summer.

 
 

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