Delny road bridge plan for killer Easter Ross level crossing welcomed by MP as Network Rail tables scheme
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A ROSS-SHIRE railway level crossing which has claimed several lives may finally be closed after full plans for a replacement bridge were lodged.
Calls have long been made for safety improvements at the dangerous crossing at Delny which has taken three lives – including a double fatality involving two local teenagers in 2007.
Engineers installed automatic half-barriers ten years later with a view to finding a more permanent solution.
Network Rail later came back with plans to close up the crossing to all but pedestrians, and divert traffic from nearby Barbaraville along existing roads via Kilmuir to reach the A9.
Those plans – which would have necessitated a diversion of several kilometres along roads without footpaths – sparked outrage amongst residents and councillors, who feared they might not be safe.
That sparked the rejection of the proposals by Highland Council.
A subsequent application in 2018 for a road bridge next to the crossing was then withdrawn for redesign work.
The latest proposal will see the existing road diverted over farmland to the east of the existing crossing, with the road gradually curving and climbing a new earth embankment before crossing a concrete bridge and down the other side via another gradual curve to rejoin the existing road again.
"[We have] been working to secure closure of Delny level crossing for a number of years," said Network Rail in its application.
"Consultations on previous closure plans have made it clear to Network Rail that the only acceptable solution for the local community would be the provision of a suitable alternative in the form of a road bridge.A replacement bridge has therefore been the only proposal option progressed as the most appropriate because it offers the safest solution for both rail and road users whilst retaining a public crossing at the location.
"Since October 2015, Network Rail has been actively engaged in consulting its plans to close and replace Delny level crossing in Barbaraville and so remove a major rail safety risk and impediment to future rail growth.
"We recognised the importance and sensitivity of our proposal and took steps to engage with the local community, attending public meetings and providing updates to ensure our final planning application represented a best fit solution for both the railway and for the majority of people living and working in this area."
If approved, work could start on the new bridge as early as next year, with the bridge expected to be operational "within 2021 or early 2022 subject to conclusion of a successful stopping up order process" at the existing crossing.
Easter Ross MP Jamie Stone has welcomed news that there may finally be a resolution to the "long and sorry saga" surrounding the crossing.
He said: "I'm glad that we've reached this point. I think construction of a bridge is the right approach, as it will be entirely safe and mean that farmers can continue to move agricultural vehicles across the line with ease. I'm duty bound to offer word of thanks that some sense is now prevailing."
Alan Thain and Paul Oliver, both 17, died after the car they were in was struck by the Inverness to Wick train. Driver, Richard Fleming, was given a five-year jail sentence for causing death by dangerous driving.