West Highland Lines get a new group to focus on improvements
Glenfinnan Viaduct, photo taken by Emma McGhee
In a move sure to be welcomed by passengers, the West Highland Lines Review Group will look at opportunities to improve performance and journey times on the route from Helensburgh Upper to Fort William, Mallaig and Oban.
It will also use a partnership approach to identify rail related initiatives for passengers and freight that exploit and enhance the economic and social value of the line and the communities it serves.
Mr Yousaf said:
“The West Highland Line is one of our most scenic rail route and provides a vital service to the communities and businesses that lie along its route.
“Building upon the success of other groups, such as the Far North Line Review Team, we are determined to make the most of this important asset for all users, particularly our tourism industry.
“Key to the group’s success will be our commitment to building on work carried out so far and strengthening the partnerships that will help drive forward a 21st railway.”
The group builds on work carried out so far and will be led by Transport Scotland’s Director of Rail; members will include Network Rail, ScotRail, Caledonian Sleeper, Tactrans; HITRANS, and SPT, as well as representatives from the freight industry, local councils, community groups and other operators on this route.
Its purpose will be to identify timetable improvements, consider infrastructure options and subsequently promote appropriate projects for future investment for passengers and freight.
Speaking on behalf of all the relevant Regional Transport Partnerships, HITRANS Chair Allan Henderson said:
"The Regional Transport Partnerships fortunate enough to have the world-famous West Highland Lines running through them are pleased to be part of the West Highland Lines Review Group which will help to provide a platform for the development of the routes to Oban, Fort William and Mallaig, maximising their value for local residents including islanders, tourists and freight in the various communities served by the WHL in the SPT, Tactran and HITRANS areas."
Hege Hernaes, Secretary of West Highland Community Rail Partnership said:
“We have been pressing for a comprehensive Line Review for some time, and are delighted the Minister for Transport has been receptive to our reasoning. The communities along the West Highland Line are keen to see it realise its full potential. More frequent services and an improved travel experience will make it easy for tourists and the local communities to opt for the train.
“Encouraging rail travel, as part of a truly coordinated transport system, is the only sustainable way forward and offers huge opportunities and benefits for our local economy. We are hopeful that local user groups and representatives from the wider community will now have an opportunity to engage with the transport sector in constructive discussions that will deliver a better railway future for the West Highlands.”
As well as consideration of capacity, resilience and services, including those linked to the promotion of tourism and active travel, the Group will review the branding, marketing and promotion of the line in collaboration with communities and businesses, drawing on best practice from other routes.
The Review Group also has a remit to address the present, the mid-term and provide strategic proposals for the future.