TWO of Dingwall’s three level crossings are being upgraded with full barriers to improve safety – six years after the idea was mooted.
Tracks owner Network Rail has confirmed the work will be carried out in July.
Council officials first discussed the idea with Network Rail in 2012. Despite the wait, local Highland councillor Margaret Paterson is jubilant.
She said: "I’m absolutely delighted. I’ve been campaigning for safety at these crossings for well over 20 years. Dingwall is much busier now. Things improved with the half barriers. This upgrade will be tremendous because safety is paramount."
The town’s middle crossing – over the A862 – is currently served by a single barrier on each carriageway while Dingwall No.1, on Craig Road, is an open crossing with no barriers. Both have been subject to trespass incidents and close calls.
The two crossings will have full barriers including traffic lights, two single lane barriers on each side of the crossing – four barriers in total – and an "object detection system" to scan the crossing to check it is clear.
Vegetation will be cleared and ground clearance carried out prior to the barriers going in.
The installation and testing of the new equipment will require two-week road closures. Dingwall "middle" is scheduled to close from Sunday, July 15, to Sunday, July 29.
Dingwall No.1 will close for two weeks in August. The road closures will not overlap.
David Dickson, infrastructure director for Network Rail Scotland, said: "These upgrades represent a significant improvement for rail and road safety and we hope the community will support our efforts.
"Our aim is to deliver these improvements with as little disruption as possible. However, we’ll require a two-week road closure for each crossing to install and test the equipment."
Network Rail will host a public drop-in session to answer any questions about the upgrade, at the town’s community centre on April 19, between 3.30pm and 8pm.
There are mixed opinions, meanwhile, about provisional plans, submitted to Highland Council, for a road bridge to replace the level crossing at Delny, where two teenagers died in a collision between a car and a train in 2007. Network Rail hopes to have it in place by the end of 2019.
Seventeen-year-old passengers Alan Thain and Paul Oliver died when the car they were travelling in hit an Inverness to Wick train that February.
Car driver Richard Fleming (18) was sentenced to five years imprisonment for causing death by dangerous driving.
After years of local campaigning, a barrier system was installed last September, to avoid the permanent closure of the crossing and, with it, a vital road link between Barbaraville and the A9.
Local opinion is, however, divided.
Tom Anderson, chairman of Kilmuir and Logie Easter Community Council, said: "The existing barriers are doing the job, in as far as they’re much better and easier to be seen. You can see them when the sun is shining in your eyes, so they’re an improvement.
"But, from a community council point of view, we’d usually go for the best that’s available and a bridge is the best that’s available, I suppose."
Tain and Easter Ross councillor Alasdair Rhind said: "I personally never believed that a bridge was necessary here. I always fought for the barriers. I think they’re working well."
An application is expected next month.