17/02/2021 – A local train for local people – ScotRail to the rescue.
West Highland CRP helps ScotRail make the right decision: temporary service introduced to Fort William departing Rannoch 08:52 every Monday and Thursday.
COVID-19 travel restrictions during lockdown have seen ScotRail’s passenger figures drop by around 90%. On the West Highland Line, this has meant that even the sparse daily service of three trains in each direction between Glasgow and Fort William has had to be reduced. Anything else would be a waste of taxpayers’ money.
But between Rannoch and Tulloch there are small lineside communities that depend on the train as the only form of public transport to their nearest shop and medical centre. So when ScotRail’s reduced timetable suddenly made it impossible for them to make the return journey to Fort William in a day, those with no access to a car – or indeed a road – could no longer access life’s bare essentials.
Station Team Manager Alister MacLennan at Fort William knows his regular local passengers. Prompted by Loch Ossian Hostel manager Jan Robinson, he immediately understood their plight. He contacted ScotRail HQ and suggested a solution. Would it be possible to run a morning train from Rannoch to Fort William in the slot normally occupied by the now-cancelled Caledonian Sleeper? That would give passengers an hour and a half to go about their business before the return train at 11:40.
ScotRail’s Business Development Team quite liked that idea. But it would be too expensive to run the extra train Mon – Fri. Would two days a week be helpful? And would it be possible to reach all would-be passengers with news about the extra local train, to ensure that use was made of it? The Business Development Team had a brainwave: let’s ask the West Highland CRP!
ScotRail’s email arrived in the CRP’s in-box in the evening of Monday 8 Feb. By Tuesday lunchtime the response came back. Representatives of all lineside communities had been contacted and had returned immediate, jubilant and near-identical answers: two days a week would be fantastic!! And members of each community could be contacted by email, phone, local radio or a knock on the door.
By Thursday, local train crews had been enlisted to work the extra trains, and by Monday 15 Feb all was in place for the first ‘community train’ to Fort William, departing 09:05 from Rannoch. This service will continue to run Mondays and Thursdays until the Sleeper service is reinstated, currently advertised as 24 March.
Times (Monday & Thursday) are as follows:
08:52 from Rannoch to Fort William
Corrour d 09:04
Tulloch d 09:21
Roy Bridge d 09:31
Spean Bridge d 09:39
Fort William a 09:55
Passengers can then return on the 11:40 from Fort William to Glasgow
Spean Bridge a 11:52
Roy Bridge a 12:02
Tulloch a 12:13
Corrour a 12:30
Rannoch a 12:41
As a CRP, we are impressed with ScotRail’s quick implementation of this ‘community rescue’, and we are pleased to have been able to play a small part in that respect.
Secretary, West Highland CRP
Full details are contained in ScotRail’s Press Release: