IT is a route much beloved by fans of the Harry Potter books and films for the part it played in whisking him and his magical chums off to wizard school.

Famed for its spellbinding scenery and the iconic Glenfinnan viaduct, the West Highland Railway has become an international tourist attraction after doubling for the route taken by the Hogwarts Express in the film adaptation of JK Rowling's novels.   

Now Scotrail is being urged to cash in on the soaring numbers of passengers on the line, which runs from Glasgow to Fort William and onto Mallaig, by putting on extra services and providing a better experience for tourists.

And a fresh injection of funds could also be magic for those travelling the A830 by easing congestion on the road to the Isles.  


Fresh figures published by the Office of Rail Regulation have revealed that the number of people travelling on the "Harry Potter" railway has doubled in the past decade, while hundreds are travelling to the countryside nearby to watch the train as it crosses the bridge.

And the line - previously been hailed as one of the most scenic in the world - continues to be a runaway success, with the latest statistics show that the number of passengers passing through Fort William station growing by 17,342 (or 12.5 per cent) between 2017 and last year.

READ MORE: Police issue warning to viaduct tourists

The numbers arriving at Glenfinnan station follow a similar track, rising by almost 2,500 while those reaching Mallaig  are up by 9,472 or 11 per cent.

Annual passenger numbers have increased by almost 50,000 passengers across the area, with growth at other towns such as Aviemore, Dingwall and Kyle of Lochalsh also appearing in the figures.

Kate Forbes, MSP for Skye, Lochaber and Badenoch constituency, believes that now is the time to capitalise on the popularity of the enchanting route.

She said: “It’s fantastic to see more people choosing to go on the ‘Harry Potter line’ and experience the fantastic scenery at the Glenfinnan viaduct, as well as the breath-taking views from Fort William to Mallaig generally.

“Ultimately, I would like to see more people using public transport instead of driving as it reduces congestion and its good for the environment. That means that public transport needs to be reliable, comfortable and regular.

“I would like to see ScotRail invest more significantly on this line, and capitalise on the clear growth in tourism the area is experiencing. Strategically, especially given the frequent delays with Fort William traffic in the peak summer months, it makes sense to get more people off of the road and onto trains.”


Kate Forbes,  MSP

The West Highland Railway is 164 miles long and runs by Loch Long, Loch Lomond and Loch Eil, passing the silver sands of Morar.

Ms Forbes added: “Seeing passengers up by over 17,000 in Fort William and also by nearly 10,000 in Mallaig is absolutely brilliant.

READ MORE: From Bond to the BFG - on the Scottish film set trail

“For a relatively small fishing village like Mallaig where parking is under pressure, that is a colossal increase and I hope that local shops and businesses have felt the benefit of the rise in visitors.

“If demand continues to grow, ScotRail and Network Rail should invest more so that visitors and locals alike can enjoy the beauty of the West Highlands.”

Filming of 2002's Harry Potter and the Chambers of Secrets and Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, released in 2004, took place at Glenfinnan. In real-life, the Express is the Jacobite steam train.

The viaduct is the largest concrete railway bridge in Scotland and was opened in 1901. It crosses the River Finnan at a height of 100 feet and overlooks Loch Shiel and the Glenfinnan Monument to the Jacobite rebellion of 1745.

More than 1,000 visitors flocking to Glenfinnan Station in 2017-18, and ScotRail has announced it will build a new footpath to help handle the volume of people.


Boy Wizard Harry Potter takes the train to school each year

Meanwhile, a walkway that crosses the hillside between the railway station and the viaduct will be upgraded to provide easier access to several new viewing areas, allowing tourists to capture the stunning scenery.

READ MORE: Potter fan's boyfriend proposes aboard the Hogwarts Express.

The project will be a working partnership between ScotRail, the West Highland Community Rail Partnership (WHCRP), Glenfinnan Station Museum, Glenfinnan Estate, Network Rail and Transport Scotland.

It is hoped the work helps to increase the proportion of visitors arriving by public transport by improving the facilities available.

ScotRail project manager Anouska Chisolm said: "The new footpath and viewing areas at the Glenfinnan Viaduct will be fantastic for tourism in the area and we hope it will encourage more visitors to travel here by rail instead of car.

"It's important that we continue to work with our key partners on how we can boost tourism and bring wider economic benefits along Scotland's most scenic railways."