A RADICAL safety plan for Dingwall’s three open rail level crossings is being discussed with Highland Council by Network Rail.
It emerged earlier this year that there were plans to remove or improve the three crossings in the town, now Network Rail has confirmed this week that it looks likely that full barriers will be installed on two of the crossings and the third will be done away with altogether.
The details of the major project are still to be hammered out, but the proposals emerged this week after it became clear that open crossings were soon to become a thing of the past in the Highlands.
Mini barriers are to be fitted at most open rail level crossings in Ross-shire and will be part of £4 million plans by Network Rail to install the safety equipment at 20 such locations throughout the Highlands.
The work in Ross-shire is expected to be carried out after initial installations take place at Corpach, Brora, Kirkton and Dalcham.
However, a full-sized barrier blocking off the entire road will be installed at the crossing at Halkirk in Caithness where three north pensioners died in 2009 when their car was hit by a train.
The Halkirk accident sparked a campaign by Skye, Lochaber and Badenoch SNP MSP Dave Thompson, whose constituency covers Dingwall, where alone there are three open crossings.
He said that installing the mini-barriers, which cost about £150,000 each to fit, marked a major step forward in road and rail safety.
“I am pleased that the industry and its partners have found an innovative system that will bring significant safety improvements and that is affordable,” he added.
The decision to roll out barriers follows a pilot scheme at a single-line crossing at Ardrossan harbour in Ayrshire, hailed by Network Rail route managing director David Simpson a “fantastic success”.
Cabinet secretary for infrastructure and capital investment Alex Neil said: “Our level crossings are among the safest in Europe and 10 times safer than the European average, but every accident on a level crossing is one too many.
“Tragic incidents like the ones at Delny in Ross-shire and Halkirk further confirm the need for all partners, including road users and pedestrians, to work together to do everything we can to reduce the risks.
“I have been encouraged by Network Rail’s determination to find an innovative way forward to improve the safety of open level crossings and I have taken a great interest in this trial at Ardrossan.
“Railway safety, including at level crossings, remains reserved to Westminster. However, to demonstrate our commitment, the Scottish Government earlier this year announced an additional £10 million fund to help facilitate the closure of level crossings and I will continue to liaise with Network Rail on these issues.”