List of Issues online

January 2024 Issue

Contents of the online version:

Top stories
Letter from the Editor
Monthly news from Knoydart, Muck, Rum, Eigg
Lifeboat, harbour and railway news
World Wide West Word

Letters, e-mails and comments are welcome.
Contact Details & How to Subscribe to the Paper
Sign our Guestbook

All photos are copyright either of the individual photographers or West Word.
Not to be reproduced without permission.


New Boats in Mallaig Harbour
Two new boats have arrived in Mallaig Harbour recently: Bigger Dipper, Western Isles Cruises' new RIB, and Bo-Ruag, Scottish Sea Farms' new crew transfer vessel.
Bigger Dipper (above) was commissioned in February 2023 to provide a fast and efficient vessel to operate the Small Isles school ferry contract, taking children to and from Rum, Muck and Eigg every Friday and Sunday. She will also form a valuable addition to the Western Isles Cruises fleet to provide private charters in the local area. Built by RedBay boats in Co. Antrim, Bigger Dipper is 12 metres in length, and powered by two Suzuki 325hp outboard engines, and cruises at 25 knots with a top speed of 38 knots. She can carry 12 passengers plus three crew.


Bo-Ruag (above) was built and designed by Flugga Boats in Shetland. She's fully enclosed and will make the transfer of staff from Mallaig to the fish farm sites in Loch Nevis safer, faster and more comfortable.

Happy New Year to you all! I hope you've had fun over Christmas and Hogmanay. It's been snowing as I'm finishing editing - very picturesque! I'm very happy to say that West Word has made the shortlist for the Community Newspaper of the Year award at the Highlands and Islands Media Awards! The awards ceremony takes place in Inverness on 2nd February. Fingers crossed! As always, thanks to our volunteers for their help with printing and distributing papers and labelling envelopes.
Kirsty Bloom

Well done to all the Looney Dookers at Traigh Beach on New Year's Day morning! Photo by Jill Lee

Mackintosh Centre update
No good news to share at present about the reopening of the Mackintosh Centre. West Word contacted NHS Highland for an update, and received the following response:
"Following recent advertisement of all vacancies, we have now reviewed the applications and we do not have enough applications to successfully staff either Dail Mhor or the Mackintosh Centre. Dail Mhor has been out to advert for just over a year, and the Mackintosh since August, and we are some away from being able to open either of them.
"The next steps will be to ask the Senior Leadership Team to look at next steps for these Homes. We are really disappointed that we haven't managed to recruit as we could have reopened in the next few months with the right number of staff.
"We would also like to say thank you to all the staff for their patience over the last few months to a year."
NHS Highland have so far not responded to West Word's further request for specific information about the vacancies needing to be filled.
A petition has been set up online on change.org requesting that the Mac be reopened as a matter of urgency: https://chng.it/y9x26Xd8Fx

Happy New Year folks!
Here we are, at the beginning of 2024. It was a pretty stormy end to the year in the lead up to Christmas, with lots of boats cancelled due to the weather and some amount of uncertainty for those heading away (or even heading home!) for the holidays. Thankfully the New Year has come in much more docilely, and was rather mild to begin with, although we are back in a deep cold snap as I write this. Funny how we are not that far geographically from Mallaig but the difference in temperature is distinctly notable. Hogmanay was a slightly quieter affair this year, with fewer visitors for it (perhaps put off by all the storms!) Knoydart's own local band the Black Hills Ceilidh band provided some fantastic tunes and dancing along with support band Heisker (who are also Knoydart's own). The ceilidh was followed by a good old democratic disco and revellers were dancing the new year away 'til the small hours.
The pub also hosted a cracking Christmas party earlier in the month, with games and fun for the kids, as well as a visit from Santa himself. There was a buffet style dinner and then more hilarious games for the adults and a quiz. The wee bar is coming along nicely in the pub too, and it won't be too long until it's complete.
The Tearoom is currently closed for a little while, but will reopen in a couple of months I believe.
Back in August you might remember we had a fantastic evening of music and poetry in the Old Forge with Julie Fowlis, Karine Polwart, Iain MacFarlane, Ingrid Henderson, Sarah Grant and Doug Garry . . . well, you might have heard it being broadcast on the radio on Christmas Eve! If you didn't catch it, it is still available on BBC sounds so get on and have a listen! It's called 'Pilgrimage for a Pint'.
As you would have seen on the cover of West Word last month Knoydart Renewables won the 2023 Scottish Green Energy award for the Best Community Project and chair Frank Atherley and his wife Denise headed off in December to collect the award in person. A great achievement for our wee community!
Knoydart Forest Trust finished the planting at Kilchoan before Christmas and are now on to the Black Hills (Doire Fada) where 60k are to be planted in the next two months, followed by 120k in approximately a month after that at Brockets Handgrenade. Going to be a busy few months for our hardy planters!
Heather Robb

Canna's column will be back next month!

Hello, Muck Calling . . . glad to have survived the festivities and able to crack on with West Word; hope you all had a fantastic time - we had the usual organised community events and then the more impromptu . . . there was an Advent spiral with carols and candles where each resident placed a light within the living spiral, followed by a visit to the children from Santa who gave out presents and goodies then shared mince pies and mulled wine. Then a very quiet and family orientated Christmas day was pretty much the story, leading up to the adrenaline-filled fast-paced liver-killing Hogmanay celebrations.


They started at the Tearoom which, if you have ever been inside, you'll understand was a snug but fun filled venue for 50, with plenty of chat, music, booze and food right up to the bells. Then we all kind of splintered into smaller groups and parties in readiness for the no-holds-barred, no forgiver of age nor gender, annual club-yielding beach hockey - which was wetter than most years as we had no patience for the tide to fully retreat, but was definitely a game leveller in favour of the novice players (my hand is firmly straight in the air) . . . and funnily enough the star players tried to call it a draw.


Full time drinks and nibbles went on well into the wee hours as per usual, but keep it quiet as if it gets more popular we may have to make it a ticketed event. On other news, we are at the architects drawing stage for our two community houses and pretty soon will be signed off I'm sure.
Well folks that's all our news (that we can remember) for this episode!
Bruce Boyd

Happy New Year from Rum.
I think we're all pleased about the return of the double run on the Saturday ferry service. It's been a very difficult two years for the Small Isles with the loss of inter-island connectivity and no acceptable service on a Saturday. The second ferry does get back to Mallaig very late, but this is the only way the two runs around all four islands could take place, but it does mean longer day trips between islands which is a huge benefit to islanders and visitors alike. We are also excited about the prospect of the return to Rum of the Sheerwater from Arisaig this year on Sundays in June and August; this will a huge bonus to tourism, and yet more connectivity between islands with a potential day trip to Canna on a Sunday too.
Visitor services manager, Alex, has been busy with our dark sky tourism and organised the first star gazing expedition, which takes place 7th to 11th March, a collaboration with Yorkshire Dales Bushcraft and Cosmos Planetarium. Visit the bunkhouse website for more info. In other tourism updates there will be bikes, kayaks and fishing gear hire all from the bunkhouse; micro grounding retreats at Ivy Cottage (think wild bathing, breathwork, meditation); yummy hot food at the shop to complement their uber coffee machine, and more.
There is another group of volunteers coming this month to carry out more maintenance around the village and finish off clearing the North side Nature Trail; the footbridge is also getting fixed up too. Thanks to the last volunteers who painted the inside of the phone box - we got the outside painted last year but when I spied how glamorous the Canna phone box was inside, got ours pimped up too. It is now very splendid looking, the phone works and there is also a book swap and a visitors book inside too, so worth popping in if you're here.
I think everyone enjoyed the Christmas and New Year holidays; we had a party and quiz in the hall on New Year's eve, enjoyed yet more of Colin's Bramble whisky and celebrated Jinty's significant birthday.
The unusual Otter who took up residence in Ali's henhouse to end its days in relative luxury, died, which was a shame but it must have been old and on its last legs to move inside - this happened once before with a feral cat, which had had enough of living on the edge for many years and turned up on Derek's doorstep one day. He took it in and it lived out the rest of its life there.
In NNR news the two new Rum pony foals got named and are Shellesder and Fhuarain, and NatureScot reported it was a good year for the Manx Shearwater colony with 75% of monitored burrows producing a chick, which is above the long term average. At Rum Primary, the parent council feel that they have been let down by Highland Council once again. School is due to start on the 8th but there is no word about any teacher or head teacher since the temporary teacher left at the end of term. It has been seven months since the last head teacher handed in her notice and it has still not been advertised nationally at all with no official information getting to the parents or other school staff whatsoever. As a consequence of this, the children have lost out on around 20% of their hours in school. Despite this, the children are in great spirits and the nativity play they performed at Christmas was awesome. We also recently heard that although HC had promised to build badly needed permanent accommodation for school staff, they have not committed the budget and so staff will still be in temporary accommodation.
The first meeting about the new hub takes place on the 15th January, postponed from December due to bad weather.
Fliss Fraser

Rum Birding Highlights 2023 by Sean Morris
January In January 2023 I saw 57 species on the island. Highlights included Jack Snipe and Black-throated Diver.
February A further 11 species were seen bringing the species total to 68. February highlights included Glaucous Gull, Iceland Gull, Short-eared Owl, Peregrine and Hen Harrier.
March Nine species were added in March bringing the total to 77 including Whooper Swan, Great Skua and the first spring migrants of Wheatear and Lesser Black-backed Gull.
April Fourteen species added brought the total up to 91. April highlights included Whimbrel and Sand Martin.
May Seven new species were seen in May bringing the total up to 98 for the year. Highlights in May included Grasshopper Warbler and Spotted Flycatcher.
June Only two species, Whitethroat and Swift were added in June bringing the total to 100.
July and August Both blank months for additions.
September Seven species were added in September bringing the year's total to 107 species. The highlight of the month from a rarity perspective was an Ovenbird. This is a North American species and extremely rare in the UK.
October Six species added this month bringing the total to 113. Highlights this month were Ring Ouzel, Waxwing and House Sparrow. There are no breeding House Sparrows on Rum and they are a rare sight on the island.
November Two species were added in November including another scarce bird for the UK of Richard's Pipit.
December No new species were added to the list in December so the final tally of species I saw on Rum in 2023 was 115.
This compares to 122 species seen in 2022 so I must try and do better in 2024! Out of interest I have seen 172 species in total on the Isle of Rum since January 1995.

On the few clear and sunny days we had this month, the Eigg Mermaids have jumped in the water again; in particular, Steph swam to raise money, with her '12 dips of Christmas' for Cancer Research raising over £500! Very well done, girls! Marathon training still goes on for Sarah, and she is seen pounding the road and the waterlogged paths through all weathers! Congratulations to her too for her determination!
Meanwhile the whole island got itself ready for the Yuletide season: first, the Oppenheimer film show in the hall; second: the fabulous Strictly inspired school panto: "Action, Camels, Light" which was as entertaining as it gets! Camels, shepherds and angels danced their socks off, the inn-workers' tango at the end being a total hoot, and the youngest participant, baby Edith as the Star, unanimously brought a 10 from each of the judges - the Innkeeper, the Donkey and Caesar. Third, the community Christmas meal after Santa's visit to the hall, the Christmas Eve's eve karaoke at Galmisdale bay, and the lovely Christmas Eve carol service at St Donnan's brought everyone together in a variety of ways.
Much to our relief, family and friends managed to make it to the island - together with the turkeys - and then more family and friends and musicians for New Year too, so a big thanks go to the Loch Nevis' crew for doing their best in what has been challenging weather . . .
The year finished in style with Eddie's birthday and the Eigg Shop party before we all gathered again at the hall to bring in the New Year with our great bundle of tunesmiths: Gabe and Damian joined by Angus Binnie, Jarlath Henderson, Yogi and Kenny for a great night of dancing. It was also a pleasure to see the return of Megan Frey to Eigg to celebrate with us, all the way from Hawaii which is now her home in between sailing trips to Antarctica - what a contrast. We all enjoyed the slide show of her adventures and now look forward to her next trip back! It was also great to have Doug and Amy with us over the festive season, as they are off to Abu Dhabi at the end of January! So Bliadhna mhath śr /Happy New Year/ Happy 2024 to everyone, wherever you are or going to be!
Camille Dressler

Photo by Moe Mathieson

We are pleased to announce that Mallaig Fuel Station is operating and selling diesel and unleaded petrol once again.
We apologise for the inconvenience closure of the fuel station has caused local residents and visitors to Mallaig. We also thank you for bearing with us while we explored all options to safely bring the fuel station back into operation as quickly as possible.
Denholm Fishselling Limited
15th December 2023

Mallaig Lifeboat Log
2nd December 2023
Launched at 06:10 to convey Coastguards to Armadale, Skye to assist in the search for a missing person. After dropping the Coastguard team off at Armadale pier, the Lifeboat was requested to carry out a coastline search. The Y-Boat with two crew was deployed to search close inshore whilst the Lifeboat searched offshore. After three hours of searching no trace was found of anyone on the shoreline. With the search now concentrating on the village of Ardvasar, the Lifeboat was stood down and requested to return to station at 09:45.
The missing person was located later that morning safe and well in a neighbouring village. Lifeboat berthed and ready for service at 10:10.

News from Mallaig Harbour
Happy New Year everyone! After a relatively calm period at the start of December, the wind and rain returned for the end of the month. Thankfully, we weren't hit as badly as some other parts of the country by Storm Gerrit, but it was still wild enough to mean that we had a full Harbour over Christmas, with boats sheltering from the worst of the weather. We welcomed the New Year again this year with another amazing firework display by the Ronja Commander from the end of the outer breakwater. There were a couple of test fireworks at 8pm and 10pm, then a full display at midnight, again supplemented by fireworks from the other side of the bay, organised by some local residents. It's becoming quite a tradition, and not even the rain that had come on by midnight seemed to dampen this year's display!
The month started with us welcoming two new vessels to the Harbour. Scottish Sea Farms new crew transfer vessel, the Bo-Ruag, which was built and designed by Flugga Boats in Shetland arrived first (actually at the end of November). She's fully enclosed and intended to make the transfer from Mallaig to the sites in Loch Nevis safer, faster and more comfortable for the staff. Meanwhile, Western Isles Cruises new Red Bay RIB, the Bigger Dipper arrived in Mallaig on 5th December, designed to take over from the Arwen in carrying the school pupils to the Small Isles, as well as undertaking other charter work.
Landings of sprats have continued throughout December, with the Caralisa once again the only vessel fishing for them. It's been good to see the activity, even if it meant that Caralisa Fresh Prawns and Fish wasn't able to supply prawns for Christmas dinners this year! The pump is still in-situ, ready to see what the start of January brings. The weather over the festive period has been very mixed though, so we are not overly optimistic for more landings in the new year.

The Caralisa coming in loaded with sprats, and pumping them ashore.
Photos by Moe Mathieson


As I mentioned last month, we have commissioned MKA Economics to undertake an Economic Impact Assessment, and they were in Mallaig for a few days at the start of December to meet with some of the key stakeholders. It was an interesting process for me, running through the history of the Masterplan and the developments to date taught me that I assume people know much more than they do about our plans! Although our ultimate aim as a Harbour Board is still to be able to build a new North Breakwater and relocate the ferry operations to this area, we are realistic about when we might be able to achieve this. In the meantime, we will continue to try and move forward with smaller projects for the benefit of those using the Harbour. Some of these are pretty straightforward, but some, like the new berths and dredging in the Outer Harbour will still require significant investment, and we are hopeful that the Economic Impact Assessment will give us the evidence we need to secure the grants required to make these projects a reality. When we published the Masterplan, the Outline Business Case that accompanied it had a resident population for Mallaig of about 900. As of 2011, 442 residents were recorded as being in employment, and Mallaig Harbour was the main employer, supporting approximately 200FTE jobs. Given the publicity recently about the reduction in the population in Mallaig of 18% between 2003 and 2020, and the changes in the fishing industry during this period, it will be good to revisit this, and have more up to date figures. The population reduction, to 680 in 2021, seems slightly surprising to me, and some of you may have seen me on BBC Alba earlier in the month talking about this along with Michael Currie and Dawn MacPhie.
You may have also seen that the public consultation for the next Clyde and Hebrides Ferry Service (CHFS3) opened on 15th December, and runs until 8th March 2024. Scottish Ministers' preferred option would be a direct award of the new contract rather than a competitive bidding process. This would be subject to satisfactory due diligence being undertaken. The consultation is an opportunity for those who have asked for change to contribute and help the Scottish Government shape the future of these ferry services, which are vital to our islands. You can access the consultation from Transport Scotland's website, www.transport.gov.scot/consultations/
Still on ferries, the two new vessels being built in Turkey to serve on the Little Minch routes (between Uig, Lochmaddy and Tarbert) have been named MV Claymore and MV Lochmor after a public vote on a shortlist of eight names. Having started my working life commuting from Mallaig to Eigg on the original Lochmor, you can guess where my vote went! These two vessels are due to be delivered to CMAL in 2025, and will have capacity for 450 passengers and 100 cars or 14 commercial vehicles. These are two of the six larger vessels replacement vessels at the moment, and CMAL also hope to start the process of replacing the smaller vessels in 2024, beginning with seven of the 'Loch' class vessels in the first phase. New vessels for Mallaig would come in the second phase of this small vessel replacement programme.
Jacqueline McDonell
01687 462154

On and Off the Rails

Hello, it's me again!
Desperately telling myself to start the column whilst "finding" other "jobs" to do that could be put off, to the point where if I don't start now it'll be a late night finish and it's too cold for that - so here goes.

Date for your diary
Model Rail Scotland 2024 at the SEC Glasgow will be happening next month on Friday 23rd February 10.30am - 6pm, Saturday 24th 10.30am - 6pm and Sunday 25th 10.30am - 5pm. With a family ticket costing £35 or individual tickets £15 or child £5. Combine that with a "Kids go free" rail travel ticket it makes for a great day out. Over 50 layouts are promised plus 130 exhibitor stands. Advance ticket holders can enter 30 minutes before advertised door opening times. Advance tickets are either physical or e-tickets (with no admin fee). More details are available on the website www.modelrail-scotland.co.uk.

All Change at Glenfinnan Station
The latest newsletter (December 2023) reports that an exceedingly busy year took place, with record high visitor numbers and many new faces and helping hands.
John Barnes and Hege Hernaes are now both seeking to take a step back from the day to day operations, and have been lucky enough to attract new front-of-house staff as well as new local operators for both the Dining and Sleeping Cars.
The Dining Car's new operators - after 15 years as managers of Glenfinnan House Hotel - are Duncan and Manja Gibson. They started in March 2023 and have had a great menu from 8.30 in the morning with last orders at 4:30pm. They will commence again in mid March, assisted by Fiona and Ella. If planning to sample their delicious fare, do note that they have introduced rest days on Sundays in July and August, and on Sundays and Mondays in other months.
The Dining Car has undergone body work of a specialist nature (filling, sanding and priming work) supplied by Robert Puttick from Arisaig, and when the temperature allows, painting work can commence.
The Sleeping Car is next in line but just a paint job needed there.
Iain McQueen of Arisaig has been working with the Museum Trust to make use of local timber that still remained after the felling of over-mature trees below Station Road ten years ago, that then allowed for the building of the Museum car park. Now Glenfinnan Station's platforms are adorned with new and refurbished heritage style benches, in keeping with the station seats originally inherited from Railtrack, plus some in the wider station area. They are a credit to all the volunteers and now provide seating for approximately 55 visitors to the station. Well done to all involved. On Platform 2 there is a new ten-legged bench. It looks wonderful.


The Friends of Glenfinnan AGM this year will be held on Saturday 16th March 2024 at 1.30pm in Glenfinnan Jetty Hut. Light refreshments will be served - please contact John / Hege on 01397 722295 or go to www. glenfinnanstationmuseum.co.uk for more details or offer to help.
Weather permitting there will be a guided tour of the Glenfinnan Wee Railways after the meeting.

Currently Beasdale Station is still up for sale.
Have you ever dreamed of owning your own West Highland Line Station? if you have £235,000 the dream could come true. The lovely two-bedroom cottage that is Beasdale Station was built by Concrete Bob McAlpine in 1901 as a private station for nearby Arisaig House. In 1989 it was beautifully renovated by founder members of Friends of Glenfinnan Station, Colin and Sylvia Morton, and then purchased by Current Friends Pippa and Simon Fell some ten years ago. If interested please see tinyurl.com/Beasdale for further details.

West Highland Platform extensions
News is still coming through as I write this, however - here goes!
On 11th October 2023 Network Rail applied for planning approval to lengthen eight platforms to allow for longer trains at the following stations: Helensburgh Upper, Garelochhead, Arrochar and Tarbet, Ardlui, Crianlarich, Bridge of Orchy, Tulloch and Roy Bridge. Three of the Stations (Ardlui, Bridge of Orchy and Garelochead) are listed buildings. Funding for the works had yet to be confirmed.
Jump forward to January 2024 and it is now confirmed (or so I believe) that the Scottish Government has approved £1 million of funding for platform extensions on the West Highland Line. The work will be funded in phases; the first of which will allow ScotRail to make further use of its five Explorer Class 153 active travel carriages which have dedicated space for large luggage and bicycles.
The six-car maximum length of platforms on the West Highland Line means that the 153's cannot be added to formations where services already operate as six-cars - as they do between Glasgow and Crianlarich, where they divide into portions to continue on to Oban / Fort William and Mallaig.
Work is due to begin in January (2024 presumably - not 2025 surely?) and is expected to be completed in May (again 2024 surely). The platform extensions will enable seven-car trains to run.
The only other news on the platform lengthening is that just last week, surveyors were spotted with measuring equipment at Fort William Station. Is this connected? More news as I get it!!
Patience is a virtue it seems! As it is the next newsworthy item to which, as yet, we have no answer.

W.C.R.C. Jacobite Service in 2024?
I seriously wonder if "Betfred" (other bookmakers are available) has opened up a "book" on this subject!
On 22nd December 2023 the High Court's decision after WCRC took the ORR there for a judicial review was widely reported, in the national press, local press, even on my wee TV Teletext! The result was in favour of the ORR - WCRC had lost their case. It was hoped that the ORR could pour oil on troubled waters and that a solution / set of proposals would follow regarding the fitting of magnetic interlocking door catches on all the doors on The Jacobite stock Mark I coaches.
In the meantime the ORR had granted a temporary exemption to allow WCRC to use the coaches over the Christmas and New Year period on main railway lines until the end of February 2024.
That then allowed WCRC to open up bookings in advance for 2024 - allowing tour companies and individuals to book for the 2024 season, which is due to commence at the end of March 2024. However, currently on WCRC's customer update page on the 27th December 2023 the following has appeared - and I quote -
"West Coast Railways recently challenged the UK rail regulator on its decision to revoke a certificate which enables us to operate our much-loved heritage trains on the main railway network. While on 22 December 2023 the Court concluded that the decision was lawful, the judgment does not require us to change or suspend our services. We are now committed to working with the regulator to find a long-term solution, as we prepare for our 2024 programme as planned.
"If there are changes to your journey with us, we will update you by email well ahead of your departure. We look forward to welcoming you on board. If you have any questions now, please email us: enquiries@westcoastrailways.net, or call us on the following numbers: UK customer enquiries: 0333 996 6692 Overseas customer enquiries: + 44 1524 732100." End of quote.
I think this means that WCRC have appealed against the decision made after the judicial review judgement - whilst still being able to take bookings. I am only the messenger - trying to make sense of the whole debacle. I honestly do not know what will happen next.

ScotRail launches major recruitment drive
Published 2nd January 2024
Since August 2023 ScotRail has recruited over 200 new members of staff, and the human resources team is working hard to fill many vacancies.
With the rollout of new and improved catering services, 34 extra catering staff have been hired to satisfy demand. (Can I just add here that after a year of no catering on our West Highland Extension - again - we have no Fort William catering staff at present as the hard working "Tina" gem of a person been on long-term sickness recently - bless her.)
The current aim is to recruit 160 more people by the end of March 2024 in varied roles including drivers, conductors, ticket examiners and engineers.
The Top Employers Institute has recognised ScotRail as a leading employer. Further information on career opportunities with ScotRail can be found at www.scotrail.co.uk/careers. Keep checking the website as new jobs are being added, is their advice. Travel-safe officers will be added soon.
Woops - I have run out of room again! More news next month.
Remember - patience is the ability to accept delay or trouble or suffering without becoming angry or upset. Hug-a-mug I say.
Sonia Cameron

Stop Press!
Since Sonia sent in her column, we've heard that the ORR have revoked WCRC's temporary exemption (which was due to expire on 29 February). An ORR spokesperson said,
"ORR decided in early 2023 not to grant West Coast Railway Company Limited (WCRC) with an exemption from Regulation 5 of the Railway Safety Regulations 1999. WCRC was granted permission to judicially review that decision. While its claim for judicial review was determined ORR granted WCRC with a series of short-term exemptions from the Regulations. The latest of these exemptions was valid from 1 December 2023. It was made clear to WCRC that this was subject to immediate revocation in the event that its judicial review claim failed.
"The judicial review Judgment was handed down on 22 December 2023. This dismissed the claim and upheld ORR's original decision not to grant WCRC with an exemption from Regulation 5.
"On 10 January 2024, ORR revoked WCRC's Regulation 5 exemption.
"Rolling stock without central door locking fitted or a valid Regulation 5 Railway Safety Regulation 1999 exemption is not permitted to run on the mainline. Other charter heritage operators, which use the mainline railway, have made the necessary investment to install central door locking on 'hinged door' rolling stock (or have committed to do so over a transition period), and it remains open to WCRC to do the same."
Regulation 5 of the Railway Safety Regulations 1999 banning rolling stock with hinged doors for use by fare paying passengers (without central locking) came into force on 1 January 2005. WCRC was initially granted exemptions on 1 May 2005 which lasted until 31 March 2013. A new exemption was granted in 2012 which expired on 31 March 2023. WCRC have known of the requirement to install central locking for 24 years.

Birdwatch December 2023 by Stephen MacDonald
A fairly dry and frosty start to the month, but more changeable during the second half, with periods of heavy rain accompanied by very strong winds at times.
A male Long-tailed Duck was seen offshore from West Bay, Mallaig on the 2nd. Goosanders were seen on Loch Morar and Loch Ailort on several occasions. Goldeneye were seen on Loch Morar and Loch nan Ceall. Up to three Whooper Swans were seen on Loch nan Eala on various dates. Both Slavonian and Little Grebes were reported from Loch nan Ceall. A single Barnacle Goose was seen in fields at Back of Keppoch on the 17th. It was seen there on several dates after that, sometimes feeding with Greylags. It or another Barnacle Goose was seen on Loch nan Eala around Christmas, along with four Canada Geese. Still the usual wintering waters reported, with Redshank, Greenshank and Bar-tailed Godwits seen at Traigh and the Morar Estuary. Purple Sandpipers and Turnstones were seen at West Bay and the outer breakwater, Mallaig. Good numbers of Woodcock reported from throughout the area, usually seen along roadside verges.
A single Stock Dove was reported from Arisaig village on several occasions during the month. This is a fairly scarce visitor in the West, more usually encountered on more arable ground and deciduous woodland to the East.
A Kingfisher was reported from the head of Loch Ailort on the 26th of the month.
A female Blackcap was seen daily in a Morar garden from the 26th and a male Blackcap was seen briefly on Christmas Day in an Arisaig garden. It is believed that these wintering Blackcaps are not just local breeding birds that have decided to winter in the area, but are migrants from Eastern Europe and Russia that have moved west to Britain and Ireland.

Benighted on the Moor Have you spotted posters advertising an audio drama called Benighted on the Moor at your local train station recently? Benighted on the Moor is an audio drama that tells the true tale of seven Victorian men who traversed Rannoch Moor in January 1889 on an intrepid, not to say foolhardy, attempt to map the route for the now-famous West Highland Line. The coming of the railway marked a cultural watershed moment for the land it runs through, as it brought outside influences to some of the remote Gaelic speaking communities; both for good and bad. The drama aims to explore that moment.


Written and directed by Glenfinnan-born theatre maker Paul Barnes, the making of the play was a community project that involved local amateurs as well as professional actors and creatives with a special connection to the West Highland Line. Glenfinnan's Ingrid Henderson has the role of the narrator, and Tearlach MacFarlane is the largely Gaelic-speaking boat master. The music is performed by the Maxwell Quartet, with soundscaping by DJ Dolphin Boy.
The play is now available from the West Highland CRP's website - www.westhighlandcrp.com. It is also possible to download geolocative audio walks starting from Bridge of Orchy, Rannoch or Corrour stations: download the audio to your phone and listen to an immersive version of the play whilst walking in the footsteps of the original expedition. All walks are easy, and take approximately 75-90 minutes return.

Cast members in the studio

Benighted on the Moor was commissioned by the West Highland Community Rail Partnership, and the production has been supported by ScotRail, the Caledonian Sleeper, and Glenfinnan Station Museum.


Josie took a copy to read on the roof of the Opera House in Oslo, which you can access via massive ramps,
designed to be walked on, and has a great view over the city and fjord.
Shame she wasn't there when it snowed: locals take their cross country skiing kit there, and ski down the ramps!

John & Barbara Price took their copy to Mijas for some winter sun!

Watch this space for extracts from next month's issue!
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The paper version of West Word contains approximately 40 pages (A4 size) including:

  • Reports from the local communities, lifeboat log and weather
  • Columns on local sport, wildlife, politics
  • Poets corner, letters, snippets
  • Feature articles, local events, festivals and games
  • .....and lots more photos!

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West Word
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Inverness-shire PH40 4PB
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