Funding for Dalcross station and new Far North Line group
The Scottish government has announced funding to help towards the cost of building a railway station near Inverness Airport.
It has committed £3.34m to the planned stop at Dalcross, east of Inverness.
In a separate announcement, the government has said a new group is to co-ordinate efforts to improve services on the Highlands' Far North Line.
It connects Inverness to Wick and Thurso. There has been criticism of the performance of services on line.
A station at Dalcross close to the airport has been a long standing aspiration of Hitrans, which promotes improvements to public transport in the Highlands.
It has proposed constructing the station on the Inverness to Aberdeen line.
Earlier this year, Hitrans said it could be open in 2018, if planning permission and funding are secured, and constructed at an estimated cost of £2m.
The group said it could become the second busiest station in the Highlands after Inverness.
As well as people travelling to the airport, the group believes the station would be used by residents of a new village being built at Tornagrain.
Announcing the government's financial support for the project, Transport Minister Humza Yousaf said: "This substantial funding package brings a station at Dalcross a step closer to reality is a welcome boost to passengers and communities along the Inverness to Aberdeen corridor.
"The track infrastructure required to support the new station is already being delivered through the Aberdeen to Inverness Improvements project.
"The funding announced today will support the delivery of the actual station facility itself."
There have been concerns from rail experts and politicians about the quality of services on the Far North Line.
But ScotRail Alliance, which involves Abellio ScotRail and Network Rail and operates the line, said it has been investing in the route.
The Far North Line Review Group is being set up by the Scottish government to co-ordinate activities and look at opportunities to improve performance on the line.
It was announced by Cabinet Secretary Fergus Ewing at Hitrans' annual rail stakeholder conference in Inverness.
He said: "The Scottish government is determined to improve overall performance on our longest rural railway line and it is imperative we look at options to achieve that.
"It is essential we make the most of this important asset for passengers, for sustainable freight transport, and for the communities and businesses along the whole route."