Friday 13th August 2021, 1:57pm
On the 28th July 2021, Network Rail padlocked shut the level crossing at Dalwhinnie, with no consultation and minimal notice to the landowner or local community. This is a popular and well-used route across the railway to a number of Munros and bothies in wild and remote country.
Mountaineering Scotland, along with other outdoor recreational groups and local community interests, including Ramblers Scotland, ScotWays, British Horse Society Scotland and Cycling UK Scotland, is calling for Network Rail to reopen the crossing and talk with the local community and recreational groups to resolve any matters that are causing them concern. See the petition here.
Mountaineering Scotland received official notification of this action more than a week after the gates were padlocked and weldmesh fixed to the gates to prevent anyone climbing over. Network Rail claimed this sudden and unilateral action to restrict public access over the railway was done on public safety grounds.
For anyone wanting to get to the mountains of the Ben Alder range there is an underpass approximately 500m south of the level crossing.
However, parking near the underpass is much more limited than at the level crossing, where Dalwhinnie Community Council, Ben Alder and Phones estates recently upgraded the walkers’ car park at their own expense, increasing capacity for up to 20 cars. There is also no direct route between the level crossing parking and the underpass. Getting between the underpass and the larger parking area involves going back through the village, doubling the length of this diversion.
We understand that Network Rail has authorised vehicular use of this railway crossing for Ben Alder estate and the emergency services. The question that Network Rail needs to answer is why it is deemed safe for private use but not for public use when access rights apply on both sides of the railway.
Stuart Younie, CEO of Mountaineering Scotland, said: “To close an important and popular access point without any prior consultation or any supporting evidence of their safety concerns is a very high-handed approach by Network Rail. Use of the crossing along this route is well established and we find it unacceptable for a public service company like Network Rail to sever this popular and historic route, which predates the coming of the railway, without engaging with those who use it regularly.”
Mountaineering Scotland and other outdoor recreational groups are supporting a petition by Ramblers Scotland calling for Network Rail to reopen the crossing and engage with the local community, The Highland Council and outdoor interest groups. We are encouraging Mountaineering Scotland members to show your support and add your name to the petition:
Photo by B Paddy/Ramblers Scotland