17/02/2021- ScotRail’s ‘Rescue’ of Remote Highland Communities.

Corrour Station

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.
Hege Hernaes,
Secretary, West Highland CRP

Full details are contained in ScotRail’s Press Release:

ScotRail rides to the rescue of remote Highland community.
ScotRail has introduced a temporary train service in a remote part of the Highlands, after locals who have no other access to public transport expressed fears they’d miss out on ‘essential’ shopping trips and medical appointments.

The 17:37 Fort William – Glasgow service was temporarily removed from the timetable following a 90 per cent fall in the number of passengers using the train during the coronavirus pandemic.

The changes being made to the timetable reflect the current demand from customers, while delivering better value for the taxpayer.

The revised schedule is part of the train operator’s strategy to provide critical services during the COVID-19 pandemic, but in this part of Scotland, it meant customers from Corrour or Rannoch, who wanted to make an essential journey would not be able to get back on the same day.

The train operator will now run a two-coach service from Rannoch which will call at Corrour, Tulloch, Roy Bridge and Spean Bridge before arriving in Fort William around 10.00.

This will give customers an hour and a half to carry out any essential business before catching the 11.40 service home again. The service will operate every Monday and Thursday until the Caledonian Sleeper service between London and Fort William is reinstated.

Alister MacLennan, Station Team Manager, West Highlands said:

“The last thing ScotRail wants to do is leave people stranded or vulnerable during this very difficult time for everyone.

“Although we have a duty to run the rail network as efficiently as possible to deliver the best value for taxpayers, we also have a responsibility to our customers in some of the remotest parts of Scotland.

“We’re confident the timetable changes we’ve had to make are helping us provide a critical service for key workers, but we are also willing to look at reinstating certain services if it becomes clear they are vital to the local community.”

Jan Robinson, who runs the Loch Ossian Youth Hostel in Corrour, said:

“We spoke up and ScotRail listened.

“This two-day-a-week train service will be a fantastic help to me and others in this very rural community on the edge of Rannoch Moor.

“We were worried we’d miss out on trips for essential shopping and some people have important medical appointments coming up that they might have had to cancel.

“The reinstated services are also a welcome safety net for workers on the Corrour Estate in case the private road is blocked or there are vehicle breakdowns.”

Hege Hernæs, Secretary of West Highland Community Rail Partnership, said:

“A single week’s response time is impressive for a large organisation like ScotRail and demonstrates their willingness to work flexibly and in liaison with lineside communities in this time of crisis.

“The West Highland Community Rail Partnership and Lochaber Transport Forum are very grateful to the Fort William station team, ScotRail’s Business Development team, and the train crews who responded so quickly and positively when asked to work the extra train.”