From Scotrail on 12th Nov 20:

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.

Currently we are seeing less than 20% of passengers using Highland Main Line compared to normal. The services which will be withdrawn are:

  • 09:44 Inverness to Edinburgh service is withdrawn Monday to Saturday
  • 15:56 Inverness to Edinburgh service is withdrawn Monday to Saturday
  • 17:41 Edinburgh to Inverness is withdrawn Monday to Saturday
  • 05:36 Inverness to Edinburgh terminates at Perth Monday to Friday. On a Saturday, this service will continue to Edinburgh

We recognise this will be inconvenient to local communities along the route and have selected the services we believe have the least impact. We will reinstate services as soon as passenger numbers start to recover. We are growing in confidence that we will have the full fleet of refurbished HSTs delivered early next year and most HML services will be formed of the inter7city trains in December. We still have not been able to fully recommence driver training so are not able to provide an updated estimate as to when the full HML timetable can be introduced. COVID-19 will change travel behaviours for the medium and long term and we will need to properly review the level of train service we provide across the country. However, I’m personally still confident an hourly service between Inverness and the central belt is the right thing to do.

Unfortunately news of the planned changes broke before we had the chance to advise all stakeholders and I apologise for this. We plan to publicly announce all changes during w/c 23rd November but are happy for you to share this information with members of the authority and community groups as you see fit.

As background information, since 3rd August, the HML has operated at a full service. The chart below shows weekly passenger journeys on the route from 1st Jan (Wk1) to 7th November (Wk44) this year. 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).

I’m sorry to pass on this disappointing news and will keep you posted of further change