Temporary cuts to some railway services on Highland lines are confirmed by train bosses; ScotRail's new winter timetable includes revisions to the Kyle and Far North lines, as well as the Highland mainline and Aberdeen-Inverness route
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CUTS to Highland railway services have been confirmed by train bosses ahead of the publication of the winter timetables.
ScotRail has made what it has stressed are "temporary" changes to some services in light of plunging passenger numbers following the Covid-19 pandemic.
Passenger levels are as low as 15 per cent of what they were in some parts of the country before the coronavirus struck.
But with vaccines in development, and hopes that life may be able to return to some semblance of normality in 2021, rail bosses are optimistic that passenger numbers will bounce back later.
A ScotRail spokesman said: "Due to the unprecedented 85 per cent reduction in demand that we are seeing across the country, from our timetable change on December 13 we will be temporarily suspending a small number of services between Inverness and the Central Belt.
"With the low number of passengers travelling, it has been necessary for us to look at how we can maintain key services whilst also seeking best value for the Scottish taxpayers.
"Recognising the importance of public transport in connecting Scotland’s seven cities, we will operate nine services per day in each direction between Inverness and the Central Belt. The Sunday service is unaffected by these changes."
A number of services have been mothballed on the various Highland routes.
Trains between Inverness and Caithness/Sutherland, and between the Highland capital and Kyle of Lochalsh, are unaffected – but some shorter commuter routes on the Kyle and Far North Lines are impacted.
These include the 11.42am from Inverness to Dingwall, and the 12.45pm in the other direction. Invergordon will also lose two services – the 2.50pm from Inverness, and the 4.10pm journey in the other direction.
The late night Friday and Saturday services from Inverness to Tain (11.33pm) and from Tain to Muir of Ord (12.46am) will also be mothballed until demand recovers.
The busier Highland mainline route is not immune from cuts either.
These will see the suspension of the 9.44am Inverness-Edinburgh, 3.56pm Inverness-Edinburgh and the 5.41pm Edinburgh-Inverness services. The early morning 5.36am Inverness-Edinburgh service will also be terminating at Perth on weekdays instead of proceeding on to the capital.
Elsewhere, the Inverness-Aberdeen line will continue to boast a full service between those two cities, but there will be cuts to some trains that run between Inverness and Elgin only.
The suspensions include the 11.48am, 1.33pm, 3.10pm and 7.02pm trains from Inverness to Elgin; and the 7.28am, 12.38pm, 2.20pm and 4.14pm trains in the other direction.
A couple of services at the eastern end of the route (between Inverurie and Aberdeen) will also be affected.
ScotRail added that public timetables available via online journey planners are not fully up to date and the 7.06am from Elgin to Inverness will not currently show up when doing a journey enquiry. But they stressed that this will be sorted before the timetable change next month.
Related news: ScotRail plans cuts to some services on Highland routes