Kate Forbes MSP has joined calls for trains to be suspended at the Stromeferry bypass during works to the rock face over the next eight weeks.
Currently Highland Council are operating a convoy system using a road to rail scheme, but this is closed when a train is in operation between Strathcarron and Kyle – resulting in queues of over 100 cars on both sides of the bypass and journey times in excess of three hours for what would ordinarily take 20 minutes. A full road closure would result in a diversion of 150 miles.
Kate Forbes MSP, whose Skye, Lochaber and Badenoch constituency begins just after the west side of the bypass, said that a replacement bus service for trains would help ease the disruption to people living in the West Highlands.
She said: “It’s been well documented that the current convoy system is having a hugely detrimental impact on pupils attending Plockton High School as well as local businesses.
“Due to the extent of the unpredictability and length of the delays, I am told that some parents are considering keeping their children off school entirely.
“The situation is far from ideal, and is likely to continue for another eight weeks.
“I believe a better solution is that Scotrail and Network Rail should terminate all trains at Strathcarron and for a bus replacement service to operate and call at all stations between Strathcarron and Kyle.
“This would allow the road to rail section to be open whilst works continue on the rock face.”
Kate Forbes MSP continued: “Because the peak tourist season has now passed, locally I am told that the train – which only operates four services each way from Monday to Saturday, and two each way on a Sunday – is not particularly busy after Strathcarron, and is easily overshadowed by the number of people sitting in these tailbacks.
“The latest available traffic figures (2015) show that in excess of 1,500 vehicles use this route every day at this time of year.
“I am not for a minute suggesting that road should always be prioritised over rail.
“I am proud of the Scottish Government’s substantial and ongoing investment to transform our rail network, but I am looking for a common sense solution for thousands of people on the west coast.”
Picture credit: Glen Wallace on Flickr