LISTEN: Kate Howie explains the decision process behind Scot Rails move to reduce the service.
The Highland Main Line, which connects Highland Perthshire with Inverness through to Glasgow and Edinburgh, will start running fewer trains than usual.
These new cuts will withdraw four trains a day from running through the line which connects stations between Blair Atholl and Dunkeld to the rest of Scotland.
Scot Rail told the Highland Main Line Community Partnership: “We have been are currently reviewing the level of service we will provide in December to ensure we best balance the need to provide a viable service for customers with the need to provide value for taxpayers who now fund the cost of operating ScotRail services.
“As a result of this review we have taken the difficult decision to temporarily withdraw some Highland Main Line services from the timetable in December.”
This means that the 9:44 Inverness to Edinburgh service will be withdrawn from Monday to Saturday.
The train running from 15:56 from Inverness to Edinburgh will also be withdrawn from Monday to Saturday.
And the 17:41 Edinburgh to Inverness service will also be withdrawn from Monday to Saturday.
Alongside the 05:36 Inverness to Edinburgh train which terminates at Perth Monday to Friday.
Although on a Saturday, this service will continue to Edinburgh.
The Highland Main Line Community Rail Partnership are an organisation which ‘aims to link local people with the development and promotion of our route, services and stations.’
Kate Howie, a member of the community rail partnership, said: “I attended a meeting today where the head of policy for Transport Scotland related that during full lockdown the passenger numbers in Scotland were 7% of normal.
“When restrictions were slightly lifted that went up to 30% in the summer, but they’re now back to 20%.
“And you have to look at reality here, the cost of putting on trains is really expensive and its us as taxpayers [who pay.]”
The low passenger number is also not expected to be helped by the winter season looming in and level 3 restrictions stopping non-essential travel in and out of Perth and Kinross.
Kate Howie explained: “Our line is actually predominantly used as leisure; it’s not used by commuters I.E. commuters to work.
“So, what they think, and because of the lockdown, announced today, where a huge amount of Scotland will not be bale to move out of their local authorities.
“But, as I said earlier, there were not many people using the trains on our line anyway.”
Scot Rail added in their statement: “As background information, since 3rd August, the HML (Highland Main Line) has operated at a full service.
“It can clearly be seen that even in August and September before the current travel restrictions were introduced, journeys were only 1/3 of the pre-COVID level (which was also winter)”.