Highland Main Line

The Highland Main Line runs from Perth to Inverness and enables passengers heading north to explore the scenic Scottish Highlands. 

Our investment in this project will improve connections between the north of Scotland and the central belt and boost economic growth for the whole of Scotland.

This project focusses on the enhancement of passenger and freight services on the Highland Mainline, delivering outputs between Inverness, Edinburgh and Glasgow. This forms the first phase of the decarbonisation strategy for this corridor. Further future phases are proposed to enhance freight gauge and decarbonise traction on this route.

Phase One

Phase one of the project was delivered in December 2012, which increased services from nine to 11 trains per day and reduced journey times by an average of six minutes (and on some services by up to 18 minutes) at a cost of £1.2 million.

Phase Two

Phase two of the project was completed and the infrastructure ready for use on 25 March 2019, at a cost of £57m, on time and under budget.

This phase delivered signalling upgrades at Aviemore and Pitlochry stations, along with an extension of the passing loop at Aviemore and the reconfiguration and extension of the platforms at Pitlochry, enabling simultaneous arrival of trains at both of these stations. This new infrastructure has provided an immediate performance and resilience enhancement onto the route.

The long-term goal of the Highland Mainline enhancements programme seeks to achieve a fastest journey time of 2 hours 45 minutes between Inverness and the Central Belt with an average journey time of 3 hours and an increase to the number of passenger and freight paths per day.

In line with a recommendation from the draft Strategic Transport Project Review 2, Network Rail is developing proposals for the lengthening of several passing loops along the line to enable longer and more frequent passenger and freight services. These proposals will then be considered by Transport Scotland, taking into account the usual affordability and value for money considerations.

Achieving freight modal shift from road to rail has been recognised as a key component in achieving carbon reductions within Scotland’s transport system. Taking into consideration the large volumes of freight moved by HGVs in the north of Scotland, there is clearly potential to grow the rail freight market between the Central Belt and Inverness.

The infrastructure work delivered to date and an integrated approach to passenger and freight timetable patterns have created capacity for additional rail freight on the Highland Main Line and discussions with key rail freight customers are underway to use this capacity.