Stewart Nicol: Integrating flights and train timetable is key to success for new airport railway station
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I’m really looking forward to the opening of our new railway station at Inverness Airport – it’ll be great when it happens after a challenging year.
It is a long overdue addition to our local rail infrastructure and will become a key part of the transport infrastructure for both the city and the wider Highland region. It will undoubtedly give users of the airport another travel option in terms of connectivity to Inverness, Nairn and Moray.
Importantly though, I believe it also has great potential to provide a convenient commuter option for the growing communities to the east of Inverness, including the impressive development of Tornagrain.
Unquestionably, the key to the success of the station will be the service timetable and how well that integrates with the flight schedules. I have the suspicion there may well be a bedding-in period around all of this before we get to our final desired destination?
While this is a really positive development, it is at best modest and highlights for me how much needs to be done with the rest of the rail infrastructure of the Highlands.
The Highland Main Line, our rail connection between Inverness and Perth, is for the avoidance of doubt not remotely close to being a ‘Main Line’ by any definition. Indeed, I often reflect, it would look remarkably familiar to our Victorian forefathers who originally built it!
As colleagues in Caithness regularly remind me on these matters, the fact if takes around four-and-a-half hours to travel the 100 or so miles to Wick by train demonstrates just how unfit-for-purpose the Far North Line also is in terms of meeting the needs of their businesses and communities.
Over recent weeks I have seen a number of business social media discussions around the high standard and impressive performance of rail travel across mainland Europe, which is something I first experienced on a business trip to Sweden over two decades ago. Before we start to discuss standards and performance of our rail services, we again enter a new year with no prospect of seeing any meaningful improvement to our region’s basic rail infrastructure.