A temporary train service has been introduced to connect rural residents in the Highlands during the coronavirus pandemic.
A drop-off in the number of passengers has led to the Fort William sleeper service being suspended and ScotRail operating a reduced timetable.
However, the move has led to concerns some rural communities are unable access larger towns for essential shopping and medical appointments.
Now ScotRail has confirmed it will operate a temporary train service in the Highlands from Rannoch to Fort William, on Mondays and Thursdays, to improve access to services during the coronavirus pandemic.
Jan Robinson, who runs the Loch Ossian Youth Hostel in Corrour, said: “This 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.”
We've introduced a new temporary service in the remote Highlands, after concerns those local would miss out on essential trips.
The new 08:52 Rannoch – Fort William service will now operate on Mondays & Thursdays until the @CalSleeper service to Fort William is reinstated.
— ScotRail (@ScotRail) February 18, 2021
Temporary train service to ensure Highlands communities ‘are not stranded’
The service will leave Rannoch at 8.52am and call at Corrour, Tulloch, Roy Bridge and Spean Bridge before arriving in Fort William shortly before 10am.
The train will continue to run twice a week until the sleeper service from London to Fort William is reinstated.
Alister MacLennan, ScotRail’s station team manager in the West Highlands, said: “The last thing we want 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.”
Hege Hernæs, secretary of West Highland Community Rail Partnership, added: “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.”