An Inverness newspaper is celebrating a campaign it spearheaded, against a proposed change to the rail service between the Highland capital and London.
It follows rail investment plans unveiled yesterday by the Coalition Government, which ruled out a proposed change to the direct Inverness-London service which would have required passengers to change at Edinburgh instead.
The Inverness Courier launched its Save the [Highland] Chieftain campaign – the name of the service – in September after a study by the former Audit Commission chair, Sir Andrew Foster, suggested that forcing passengers to change trains in Edinburgh could save the government tens of millions of pounds.
Scotland’s transport minister Stewart Stevenson was the first person to sign the paper’s petition, describing the direct link as “absolutely vital” and adding that The Inverness Courier had made a compelling case for its retention. Other signatures came from as far afield as Australia and the Czech Republic.
The region’s business community united behind the cause, with the manager of one of Inverness’s largest hotels likening losing the service to “severing the blood vessels from the heart to the rest of the body”. Politicians from all parties also lent their backing, including Inverness MP and chief secretary to the Treasury, Danny Alexander.
Said Inverness Courier editor, Robert Taylor: ”We were surprised how the issue touched a nerve not just with business leaders, who feared for the signal such a move would send to customers and potential investors, but also ordinary travellers.
“It has been an intense few months pulling everything together, particularly for our chief reporter, Val Sweeney, but it is clear the paper’s efforts have made a real difference.”