A new group is to be set up to look at ways of improving performance on a struggling rail line linking Inverness and Caithness.
The Far North Line Review Group was announced by Scottish Government cabinet secretary and Highland MSP Fergus Ewing at an annual rail conference in Inverness yesterday.
The line has been plagued with criticism because of delayed trains and timetabling issues.
The conference heard that ScotRail have been considering options – including trialing a new gearbox system for their rolling stock to improve speed and fuel efficiency, which eventually proved unworkable.
Mr Ewing said: “The purpose of the review group is to identify, most immediately, timetable improvements and works, such as those at the level crossings at Lairg, Brora and Rovie, that can be implemented in the near future to improve performance.
“Secondly, the group will be charged with identifying opportunities, using existing funds, to improve passenger facilities, such as waiting rooms and shelters, during the years 2017 to 2019.
“Thirdly, I want the group to look at infrastructure options for our next investment period 2019 – 2024. Accordingly, the Review Group has a remit to address the present, the mid-term and provide strategic proposals for the future.
“I want all partners to be integral to the review.
“Our over-riding aim is to ensure that Far North Line passengers have a rail service that is responsive to the needs of the local community.”