An initiative aimed at boosting the Highland Perthshire economy by encouraging more people to travel by train has been launched.
The new Highland Main Line Community Rail Partnership (HML CRP) celebrated its launch at an event at Pitlochry Station.
More than 40 guests including Deputy First Minister John Swinney and Phil Verster, managing director of the ScotRail Alliance were welcomed by Sally Spaven, HML CRP chairperson.
CRPs are designed to form a bridge between the railway and communities and work with community groups, businesses and organisations and the rail industry to encourage more local people and visitors to use trains.
The HML CRP includes the scenic rail route from Dunkeld and Birnam to Carrbridge, taking in Pitlochry, Blair Atholl, Dalwhinnie, Newtonmore, Kingussie and Aviemore.
Mr Swinney said: “This is an excellent partnership which brings together the twin priorities of sustainable public transport and vibrant, well-connected rural communities.
“I wish to pay tribute to the work of everyone involved in preparing for this launch from within communities and partner organisations. In particular, I would like to express my gratitude to John Yellowlees of ScotRail for his personal commitment to this partnership and for the substantial contribution he has made over many years to all Scottish station groups.”
Mr Verster said Community Rail Partnerships strengthen the rail industry’s connections with communities, support local businesses and improve its responsiveness to customers.
“We know that CRPs can improve conditions at stations and raise local awareness of rail travel,” he said. “Other railways have seen numbers using local stations increase by between 7% and 10% as a result of CRPs working with communities.
“To complement this programme, we have established a flagship £1m Community Rail programme to facilitate widespread and effective community participation in Scotland’s railway.”
Sally Spaven said: “I must pay tribute to the many people who have worked with us over the past two years, since our 150th anniversary celebrations, to bring this Community Rail Partnership to life.
“We are delighted to finally bring all the individual groups working at stations along the line together under a CRP umbrella. We welcome the opportunity of partnership working and supporting this majestic, historic railway line achieve another 150 years of success.”