The highlands of Scotland, particularly around Inverness, are seeing a great deal of growth in rail traffic, with several station reopenings and new freight flows. Beuly and Conon Bridge stations near Inverness reopened this year.
Direct Rail Services have opened a new terminal at Georgemas junction to serve the Dounreay nuclear facility as it is decommissioned.
There's a new freight flow of bulk Scotch whisky from Elgin to Grangemouth, complementing the existing "Tesco trains" that bring supermarket goods to Inverness from the south. Unfortunately, the disconnection of the Keith and Dufftown railway from the national network at Keith, means that the distilleries at Dufftown don't currently have a direct rail connection, meaning a short lorry journey is still required to get the spirit to Elgin.
While talk of widening the A9 may suggest investment (and traffic) is moving from the rails on to the road, the evidence for the moment is of growth on the rails. Which is good for the environment and good for the users of the A9, who will have less trucks to contend with.
There is still plenty that can be done to improve the highland main line, though. Signalling is still by Victorian semaphores. Resignalling and even electrification would bring the line into the 21st century and allow faster, more modern trains to compete more effectively with road transport.
In the heritage sector, the Strathspey Railway's proposed extension to Grantown-on-Spey will give tourists in the highlands a car-less route to Grantown and will make the Strathspey the longest preserved railway in Scotland. Good for the tourists and good for the local economy.
Meanwhile, on the Inverness to Aberdeen route, Transport Scotland is planning track and signalling improvements that will allow faster, more frequent trains. And there's also talk of opening a railway station to serve Inverness airport.