Rail services in the far north of Scotland have been condemned as “not fit for purpose” by a regional MSP.
Labour’s Rhoda Grant has called for improvements after a trip from Inverness to Thurso was plagued by delays and cancellations.
She was booked on an early morning train from Inverness that should have taken just under four hours to reach Thurso.
The service was about 10 minutes late when it arrived in Dingwall, where passengers were told to disembark and change platforms to continue to journey north on an alternative train due to radio signalling problems, she said.
Then the train was held up for around 20 minutes in Lairg due to a late running southbound service, bring the delay to around 40 minutes before leaving Sutherland.
Ms Grant said there was another delay in Brora which resulted in the train being an hour late. Passengers for Thurso had to complete the final leg of the journey from the Georgemas Junction by bus, while the train continued to Wick.
Ms Grant, who was on the way to attend the a meeting of the Caithness Transport Forum, said following complaints by constituents she wanted to experience the trip at first hand.
“The service is not fit for purpose, the regular delays and cancellations make it too unreliable for many potential business users to rely on travel along the line and tourists are more likely to use the road as a faster route north,” she said.
“This is why I want to see a guaranteed level of service on the far north line that will make it a more appealing and attractive method of transport. I believe the service at the moment is detrimental to the far north economy and improvements would bring and economic boost to Caithness, Sutherland and Easter Ross.”
A ScotRail spokeswoman said: “Recent performance on the far north line has been disappointing, and we are working closely with Network Rail and Transport Scotland to improve it and to address the overall reliability of journey times for our customers.”
A Network Rail spokesman said there were no plans to upgrade the line and build new infrastructure. Instead efforts were on reducing journey times through improving existing track and signalling.
“There are various things were are looking at to improve journey times between Wick, Thurso and Inverness,” he said.