Sign the PetitionThe 2008 Campaign to Re-Open Sign the PetitionAbove: How the track looks today: The old Grantown station & the route over Dava MoorBelow: How the Forres–Grantown Line once looked (at Divie viaduct): And how it can look again!
How many of us remember taking the train from Forres to Aviemore on the Inverness-Perth Junction Railway—in those pre-Beeching days when you could buy a ticket to anywhere in the UK from Forres’s elegant Victorian station?
Work began on the Grantown-Forres railway in October 1861 and the line was finished less than two years later: testament to the vision, enterprise and sense of social responsibility of the Victorian engineers and navigators. The line ran for over 100 years, taking passengers south to the mainline at Aviemore, shipping livestock from Dunphail to markets in Edinburgh and Glasgow and bringing prosperity to the region.
Wouldn’t it be nice to see it running again?
Well, the Strathspey Steam Railway Company was recently granted permission to extend their line from Broomhill to Grantown; so in a next year or two we'll see the railway return to Grantown for the first time in 44 years.
But why stop there? Why not reopen the 22 mile line north to Forres? Restoring this historic link would complete the original Great Scottish Railway that reached Forres in August 1863 – thirty-five years before Inverness was connected! It would be relatively straightforward to relay the line: the trackbed is 99% intact, with most of the bridges, cuttings and embankments – including the magnificent Divie viaduct; and it would be wonderful to see this line running again, especially the steam train up from Aviemore! A restored service would provide an alternative route to the south from Forres (indeed the original route) and would give the region's tourist trade and economy a much needed boost. It might even encourage the building of a fitting station for the Royal Burgh of Forres – instead of the uninspiring brick shed it currently has!
The railway made Forres. If the railway hadn’t penetrated this far north Forres would still be an insignificant fishing and crofting village on the Moray Firth. Railways opened up Scotland and brought prosperity to everything they touched. The decision of the Macmillan government to close Grantown to rail traffic in 1965 was nothing short of state-sponsored vandalism. It dealt a crippling blow to the prosperity of a once thriving town and was a cynical betrayal of the passion and pioneering spirit of the Victorian engineers who built the line.
I guess everything peaks and then goes into decline, and we never know what we’ve got till it’s gone. Everyone blames Dr Beeching for the cull of the British rail network, but it wasn’t—he just drew up the report. It wasn’t even the soulless pen-pushers in the Macmillan and Wilson governments. It was a whole class of people who saw an opportunity to make money out of ‘development’ and the switch to road haulage—people ex-haulier Earnest Marples MP—and the rest. But most of all it was the everyday individuals who helped demolish the stations and lift the track or just stood by and watched it happen.
For me there are two issues: one is the reinstatement of the track, the other is the re-introduction of steam. Steam-power can burn anything: it’s simple, elemental, alive, something human beings can relate to—witness the growing popularity of the dozens of steam railways all over the country. Steam trains were doing 120mph back in the 1920s; the technology was sophisticated even then, and still evolving: designs for economical, clean-burning engines were being developed. Indeed Germany, synonymous with engineering expertise, continued with steam until well into the 1980s. If only we’d invested in it, if only we’d had the vision that the Victorians had, then perhaps we’d have less congestion and heavy freight on our roads, less pollution, less environmental damage...
The more I research the more I find rail lines being re-opened all over the country. One such is the Harrogate-Ripon line in Yorkshire, due to be relaid and re-opened in 2012, at a cost of £40M—a fraction of the cost of equivalent road. People are (finally) realising the advantages of rail travel. With more and more wanting to live in the country it may soon become possible to live in Scotland's spectacular Highlands and commute to work by train. With the final section of track from Broomhill to Grantown being laid as I write, next year would be the perfect time to continue the reopening of the railway north to Forres. Once Grantown has a station again there will, I’m sure, be renewed enthusiasm to re-open the Craigellachie line as well! Both lines travel through breathtaking scenery, and a restored service would be a tremendous boost to tourism and the local economy—revitalising the whole region.
On behalf of the communities of Grantown and Forres—and Morayshire as a whole—who would benefit from a restored rail service, I urge you to address the possibility of reopening the Forres-Grantown line.
An Aberdeenshire railway station which was closed in the 1960s has finally re-opened after a long-running campaign by residents. It has cost £3m to rebuild Laurencekirk Station, which closed back in 1967. Residents had argued that new local housing developments, bringing more commuters, added weight to their calls for improved transport links.
West Aberdeenshire and Kincardine MSP Mike Rumbles said it marked the culmination of a determined campaign. More
The Government’s Objectives
Taken from: Department for Transport - Directions and guidance to the Strategic Rail Authority – Download pdf
5.4 Against this background the Government has developed its own objectives for the railway as part of its integrated transport policy. The Government’s priorities for transport are reduced congestion, better integration, and a wider choice of quicker, safer, more reliable options for travellers and other transport users.
55.5 A key element of the Plan is to realise the potential for growth which now exists in the railway industry. The Government’s key targets for the railway are set out in Annex 2 to the 10 Year Plan, and include the following: to increase rail use in Great Britain (measured in passenger kilometres) from 2000 levels by 50% by 2010, with investment in infrastructure and capacity, while at the same time securing improvements in punctuality, reliability and safety...to reduce road congestion on the inter-urban network and in large urban areas in England below current levels by 2010; to improve air quality by meeting National Air Quality Strategy targets...
5.7 Specific outcomes which the railway is expected to achieve... are: a 50% increase in passenger journeys overall; more frequent services, faster journey times and an 80% increase in patronage on inter-city lines; more frequent services on commuter lines; better cross-country network connections; increased reliability and punctuality; better integrated information for customers; improved levels of customer satisfaction with the quality of services and of stations...
9.1 The Authority should take decisions to dispose of its land in the context of its strategies. In assessing whether there is a realistic prospect of rail or other transport use in the foreseeable future, it should avoid taking a short-term view. Decisions should be made after the potential of sites has been evaluated in a rigorous way, taking into account the views of any property advisory group set up by the Authority...
Rail Passenger Market
Taken from Infra Connection Newsletter 7.06.2006 – Download pdf
In passenger kilometres, the UK has been the fastest growing passenger network in Europe during the past ten years.
Over one billion passengers a year were carried in 2004/5, 20% more train-miles are being run than before privatisation, and 157 miles of new/reopened lines and 51 new/reopened stations have been put into use. This growth is due to three, more or less equal causes: economic growth, road traffic congestion and pricing and marketing; more trains, new trains and pricing. 45% of the fares are regulated by the UK Government and are at the same level as ten years ago, allowing for inflation. Air/coach/car competition constrains unregulated fares. There are also very low advance fares. The sustained growth over ten years of both train and passenger numbers is the result of an increase in passenger satisfaction, less complaints, lower costs, and a high level of investment in new trains, stations and information systems...
Green MSP Robin Harper called for Scotland's tourism and rail industries to pull together as he launched a summer season of steam travel in the Highlands today.
'I believe that Scotland could make much more out of rail tourism,' said Mr Harper as he flagged off the steam engine Jacobite from Fort William railway station at the start of her eighth season.
'I would love to see 'clean steam' technology developed, but until then, the romance, historical importance, and 'tourist pull' of running a few steam trains in Scotland more than outweighs any environmental damage. If we linked these trains with the development of train tourism, we could actually protect the environment, by taking thousands of car miles off the roads.
'Our railway system is a poorly exploited tourism resource, and we could make much more of it. We could sell packages, where hotels would pick up from their nearest station as a matter of course. If they also developed their own 'green 'credentials, sourcing their supplies fresh and locally, saving water, conserving energy, reducing and composting waste, this would be a selling point with an ever growing number of visitors.
'Linking train travel with eco-tourism, hiking, climbing, whale-watching and a host of other activities, and travelling at leisure through our stupendous scenery, makes for an unbeatable and unforgettable holiday experience. I hope the Jacobite will be as successful as ever, and play an ever greater part in the growth of high-quality tourism in Scotland.'
FOR FURTHER INFORMATION on the steam service, contact Neil MacLeod on 01397 701234 or Maxwell MacLeod on 01397 3177127. For further information on this release, contact Jill Boulton at the Green MSPs' press office on 0131 348 6360 / 07919 210 126.
Green MSP Mark Ruskell has urged the Scottish Executive to foster a new golden age for the rail industry in Scotland.
Mr Ruskell, MSP for mid-Scotland and Fife, told Parliament yesterday that rural lines and stations needed to be re-established as viable entities that also served the wider needs of communities.
'There are many small communities and towns in the region that I represent that would benefit economically and socially from placing railway stations and services at the heart of their communities,' said Mr Ruskell during a debate on rural railways. 'Some places, like Blackford and Greenloaning, need reopened stations; others, like Dunkeld, need better utilisation of existing station facilities, whereas towns like St Andrews and Leven need new routes to link them up to the network.'
This is the second time that Mr Ruskell has brought the subject to Parliament's attention. He has also tabled a motion for rail routes to be upgraded.
He told Parliament that community rail partnerships and the micro-franchising of certain rail services were delivering viable futures for many lines in England. The Huddersfield to Sheffield Rail Partnership, he said, had been a great success, bringing together representatives from all local stakeholders including passenger transport authorities and operators.'Its work has been a great success,' said Mr Ruskell, 'with rail traffic growth well in excess of the national average and the highest level of service on the line ever. New additional evening and Sunday services have been introduced over the past three years.All these improvements and reopenings will need a bold Executive to make them happen, and they will need real participation from communities to make them a success,' Mr Ruskell added.
FOR FURTHER INFORMATION contact Jill Boulton at the Green MSPs' press office on 0131 348 6360 / 07919 210 126 or Mark Ruskell MSP on 0131 348 6368.
The Old Aviemore to Forres Railway click here for bigger picture
Engine HR103 on the 1963 Centenary Trip
Highland Railmap of 1870 – Before the link from Aviemore to Inverness – More
100s of men died building the Highland Railway
"50 years ago the area of the National Park had 15 railway stations on four different lines – now it has just five on one line (plus the seasonal Strathspey Steam Railway). Grantown-on-Spey alone had two stations; the West station was on a service from Perth and Aviemore to Forres and Inverness (the original main line to Inverness), while the East station was served by trains from Boat of Garten to Craigellachie."