Donald MacCuish, who is this year marking his 50th year in transport addressed a well-attended meeting on his 50 years in Transport in a presentation illustrated with slides and videos.
Donald MacCuish addressing the February meeting in Inverness.
© John G. Fender 2011
He began by outlining the area covered by the Highlands and Islands, in which he has spent most of his working life. The area reached from the Shetland Isles to the Mull of Kintyre is 56 miles longer than England and includes the Outer Hebrides, Skye, Islay, Mull and Jura. The Highlands and Islands Development Board (HIDB) was responsible for this area and Donald was responsible for numerous transport initiatives.
One of the first areas Donald became involved in was the impact of the introduction of Driver's Hours Regulations for the Highlands and Islands, firstly under the Transport Act, 1968, then the EEC Regulations. The proposals under the Transport Act were for a 10 hour day and under EEC Regulations for an 8 hour day. As this would have a major impact on transport in the Highlands and Islands, these proposals were felt to be unworkable and it took 12 years of negotiations to reach the current rules that are followed today.
Donald then looked at the provision of air services in the HIDB area and outlined his involvement. Many services are provided by Britten-Norman Islander aircraft, able to carry 7 passengers or 2 passengers and a stretcher when used as an air ambulance. The HIDB was responsible for the provision of airstrips on many islands, all of which Donald had an involvement in.
Turning to ferry services, Donald looked at the various issues over the years relating to ferry services in the Highlands and Islands with which he was involved. He showed how he was able to assist in the movement of Highland Fudge from Stromness and this led to the expansion of the company and the provision of a new factory employing 40 people.
Another case was the need to move large sections of oil pipe from Invergordon where ships were delivering the pipes. This required a fleet of 40-foot trailers and a transport co-ordinator was appointed for the task. However, the local police arrested the transport co-ordinator following complaints from residents that the noise form lorries was disturbing their sleep and Donald had to step in. He arranged with the Royal Navy for their adjacent facilities to be used and this solved the problems. Donald's military contracts also extended to the army and air force and he was able to arrange for a military helicopter to be present at a symposium on helicopters held at Fort William when the helicopter originally intended to be present was prevented from being there.
Donald then looked at road haulage and showed some of the local operators, including the now defunct MacBraynes Haulage, that for many years was synonymous with the Highlands and Islands and showed some film of the difficulties faced he heavy goods vehicles in negotiating some of the roads in the Highlands and Islands. Also of interest was some film showing the construction of the present A9 road through arduous terrain near Drumochter.
Rail transport also forms a vital part of the Highlands and islands transport system and Donald looked at the development of services, including the operation of HST's to Inverness, the introduction of new Sprinters and freight traffic, including cement trains. Donald rounded off his stimulating presentation with a brief look at Royal Mail Post buses, the expansion of Inverness and the need to link the A9 to the A96 and A82, something that is needed with the continued expansion of Inverness.
Report by John Fender.
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