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Bid to get Evanton back on the track gathers steam as transport partnership HITRANS launches rail station reopening feasibility study

By Louise Glen

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George Glaister believes there's a strong case to reopen the station.
George Glaister believes there's a strong case to reopen the station.

A BID to get a fast-growing Ross-shire community back on the track is gathering momentum.

A stalled campaign to reopen a rail stop at Evanton – an Easter Ross village popular with commuters and set for an extensive housebuilding programme – is being revisited with the backing of regional transport partnership HITRANS.

Its feasibility study for the Far North line comes on the back of local petitions and evidence from Conon and Beauly which suggest the beneficial impact of reopening stops.

Local man George Glaister, who has previously led campaigns, said he hopes this time words might lead to action.

Trains between Inverness and Thurso pass through the station a number of times every day and stop at other Easter Ross stations.

Mr Glaister said: "There have been a number of attempts over the years and while everyone thinks it is a good idea, it has never happened. While I am not holding my breath we will get there this time, it seems like there is a will to do it."

He believes the feasibility study is "a waste of money". He dismisses objections that a stop would add three minutes to journey times, impacting onward travel south. "My argument is, and has always been, let's start the train three minutes earlier in Thurso.

"It is ridiculous that a train comes through the village, and there is a train station – but that people have to drive to another station to pick it up."

He believes the feasibility study cash could have been better used on a design for the station itself or clearing it ready for passengers.

He said: "The train stops in other places that do not have as big a population as we do. The village continues to grow and I cannot imagine a better plan than to reopen the station to give people an alternative to using their own cars as the bus service in the area has been greatly reduced."

A spokesman for HITRANS confirmed the technical feasibility study on reopening. It will look at how a new station would impact on current rail services in terms of capacity, and to understand the infrastructure changes as a result of the Far North Line enhancements programme.
He said: "Potential journey times will be compared to existing current public transport provision.

"We have twice unsuccessfully sought Local Rail Development Fund monies for a Case for Change report. It is now felt that technical feasibility will assist future decision-making processes.

"Additionally, some funding is earmarked for community consultation in order to hear the views of local residents and to understand their current travel requirements."

A Network Rail spokesperson said: “Scotland’s Railway has a strong track-record in supporting the expansion of rail into communities across the country.

“We are always open to exploring new developments where they meet a clear passenger need and have a strong business case.”

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