Highland Tories welcome far north sleeper progress
Conservative politicians in the Highlands have welcomed news that plans to introduce a sleeper service between Caithness and the central belt are gathering momentum.
They say they are encouraged by reports that four potential operators have come forward to express an interest in running the service.
The Highlands and Islands Transport Partnership (HiTrans) has said it believes there is enough demand to make such a service viable.
Highlands and Islands MSPs Jamie Halcro Johnston and Edward Mountain have joined Thurso councillor Struan Mackie in stressing the potential benefits.
Edward Mountain said: “I am pleased to see that plans to improve transport links with a sleeper service between Caithness and the central belt are attracting serious interest.
“A new sleeper service could be a win-win situation for the region. Firstly, it could mean business travellers heading south on the sleeper train overnight can look forward to a full day of meetings when they arrive in the central belt.
“Secondly, it could attract tourists heading north from the central belt who want to leave the car behind and travel in a more relaxed way on the sleeper service instead.
“I welcome the moves to make a new sleeper service a reality and I believe it has real potential to boost the Caithness economy.”
Jamie Halcro Johnston, whose home is in Orkney, said: “This news is very encouraging.
“Any new route to and from Orkney is welcome, and I know from conversations I have had with constituents in Orkney that there is real interest from people in the islands for a service like this.
“As well as a route south for local people, this could be a great way of bringing people to the north of Scotland and on to Orkney.
“It will therefore be important that any service is integrated with other transport links – such as the boats and reliable local bus services – and that it is affordable for local people to use.
"A new link with the south could be of real benefit to Orkney, as well as providing an attractive and more environmentally sustainable alternative to flying or the long drive south.”
Councillor Struan Mackie said: “Connectivity in the far north has been a long-standing issue for locals, businesses travellers and tourists wishing to travel from the central belt to Caithness or Orkney.
“Few existing transport options allow for evening travel and the proposed sleeper service is a logical step forward in supporting the Caithness and north Sutherland economy as well as providing additional use of the far north line”
“I am delighted that HiTrans is reporting significant support from potential passengers and that four operators have come forward with expressions of interest in running the service.
“Myself and Conservative council colleagues have backed the sleeper concept from its conception and I hope that the Scottish Government will proved the ‘hard financial support’ that the project requires to get it off the ground."