Published: 27/03/2012 12:36 - Updated: 27/03/2012 13:04

Highland Chieftain train service saved

Written byVal Sweeney

Highland Chieftain saved
Highland Chieftain saved

Direct train services between Inverness and London have been saved, Scottish Transport Minister Keith Brown has announced.

It follows a major campaign by The Inverness Courier to save the Highland Chieftain which provides a daily daytime service in both directions between the UK and Highland capitals.

Its future was placed in doubt under a review by the Scottish government into the future of rail services after 2014. A consultation document suggested that through cross-border trains between England and the north of Scotland could be axed, forcing passengers to change at Edinburgh.

But the idea ran into a storm of opposition from rail users, business and tourism leaders and politicians while an 1800-signature petition, launched by the Courier, was forwarded to the Scottish Government.

Mr Brown today appeared to bow to public pressure by ruling out the possibility of introducing an Edinburgh change-over hub for train journeys between England and Inverness, Aberdeen and Dundee.

"The Rail2014 consultation set out to ensure rail users in Scotland were given a voice in how their service develops," he said.

"That is why we listened when passengers in the north of Scotland told us they are happy with the direct service to and from England.

"Of course, I appreciate why there were concerns but it is right that we give a full appraisal of the options and then let people have their say and I am very pleased to confirm that this has resulted in the continuation of direct cross-border services for the north of Scotland."

Mr Brown also revealed he has negotiated a greater say for Scotland in the specification of the next Department for Transport East Coast franchise - under which the Highland Chieftain operates - due next year.

It is the second time the Highland Chieftain has been saved following a vigorous campaign by the Courier. It was under threat in 2010 when the UK Government reviewed plans to replace the UK’s ageing high-speed diesel train.

* See Friday's Inverness Courier for more details and reaction. 

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