ScotRail has introduced a temporary train service in a remote part of the Highlands, after locals who have no other access to public transport expressed fears they’d miss out on ‘essential’ shopping trips and medical appointments.
The 17:37 Fort William – Glasgow service was temporarily removed from the timetable following a 90 per cent fall in the number of passengers using the train during the coronavirus pandemic.
The changes being made to the timetable reflect the current demand from customers, while delivering better value for the taxpayer.
The revised schedule is part of the train operator’s strategy to provide critical services during the COVID-19 pandemic, but in this part of Scotland, it meant customers from Corrour or Rannoch, who wanted to make an essential journey would not be able to get back on the same day.
The train operator will now run a two-coach service from Rannoch which will call at Corrour, Tulloch, Roy Bridge and Spean Bridge before arriving in Fort William around 10.00.
This will give customers an hour and a half to carry out any essential business before catching the 11.40 service home again. The service will operate every Monday and Thursday until the Caledonian Sleeper service between London and Fort William is reinstated.
Alister MacLennan, Station Team Manager, West Highlands said:
“The last thing ScotRail wants 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.”
Jan Robinson, who runs the Loch Ossian Youth Hostel in Corrour, said:
“We spoke up and ScotRail listened.
“This two-day-a-week train service 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.”
Hege Hernæs, Secretary of West Highland Community Rail Partnership, said:
“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.
“The West Highland Community Rail Partnership and Lochaber Transport Forum are very grateful to the Fort William station team, ScotRail’s Business Development team, and the train crews who responded so quickly and positively when asked to work the extra train.”