Far North Line enhancements

Far North Line enhancements

Phase 1 of the project is upgrading the radio communications network on the Highland rail network and services it enables for passengers at stations.

Upgrading Radio communications across the Far North Line

The Radio Electronic Token Block (RETB) Signalling system is employed on the predominantly single track West Highland and Far North Lines in Scotland.

The Far North Line (FNL) connects Inverness with Wick and Thurso. The Kyle line has a junction with the FNL at Dingwall.

Far North Line route map
Far North Line route map

The RETB signalling system uses VHF radio to issue electronic tokens to Cab Display Radios (CDRs) fitted in trains and transportable token units.

The radio system also provides voice connectivity between signallers and drivers within the RETB controlled areas.

Project Timeline

  1. Autumn 2021 - Development of Phase 1 scope and permissions route
  2. January 2022 - Start of installation of Request to Stop kiosks
  3. February 2022 - Platform works to support the Installation of radio masts and equipment
  4. May 2022 - Switch on of Request to Stop kiosks for testing.
  5. Summer 2022 - Phase 1 of project will complete


Mast on Far North line
Masts will improve radio communications in rural areas.

To ensure resilience and to extend the coverage of the radio communications network which supports the safe movement of trains across the Far North Line.

Improved communications between signallers and train cabs will improve the safety of the network and the passengers using the line.

What will change?

We have identified four enhancements to the RETB system that will contribute to improving the customer experience. The enhancements are:

  • Enhancement of the baseline radio coverage of the RETB radio systems on the Far North Route;
  • Introduction of a platform to train “request to stop” system utilising the RETB radio system;
  • Modification of the trackside and onboard radio systems to enhance the speed of token transfers;
  • Introduction of token message and signaller action based train describer stepping
Request to stop kiosk units
Kiosks to be rolled out at eight Far North Line stations

We will renew masts and ground equipment, modernising and upgrading the network to enhance coverage.

This upgrade will enable the introduction of 'request to stop' kiosks at eight unmanned stations. This will eliminate the need to 'hand-signal' trains and will lead to improvements in the operation of services on the route.

Trackside and on-train radio systems will be modernised to aid the speed of token transfer.