Transport Scotland have announced a West Highland Lines Review Group to improve performance and journey times on the railway, a move massively welcomed by the Society.
New timetabling possibilities for ScotRail services are to be examined – as well as freight haulage opportunities – on the Glasgow-Oban/Fort William/Mallaig routes.
The group will also review line speed and weight restrictions along the lines, to seek how how these could be raised.
Humza Yousaf, Minister for Transport and The Islands, announced the news.
He said: “The West Highland Line is one of our most scenic rail routes and provides a vital service to the communities and businesses.
“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 project will centre around the 2019-2024 investment period and look at improving passenger facilities in general, plus integration of rail with buses and ferries.
Sustaining and expanding the current alumina freight workings will be another aim, plus thought will be given to how timber traffic could be re-introduced.
The review group will consist of 27 stakeholders of the lines, including the Friends of the West Highland Lines’ Dr John McCormick.
John drafted a recent proposal document suggesting a revamp of the existing WHL timetable, with additional services along the Glasgow-Fort William-Mallaig section, which would fill the current gaps of several hours without any trains.
Departure times could be re-arranged to allow better opportunities for travellers, helped by a newly dedicated feet of ten diesel trains serving the lines.
The 2019 electrification of the Glasgow-Stirling-Alloa line will free up extra diesel multiple units (DMUs) and this would be a valuable opportunity to revise WHL services, for the greater good of the community and Lochaber economy.
John’s document also suggests refurbishing the existing Class 156 ‘Sprinter’ trains, with a view to replacing them with much newer units specially designed for tourist travel, by 2025.
Hege Hernaes, Secretary of West Highland Community Rail Partnership, added:
“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.”
G. Webster, 07/05/2018