Highland MSP urges Network Rail to review track-side fencing following cow compensation row

Network Rail has been urged to conduct an urgent review into track-side fencing after a train struck and killed a cow in the West Highlands last year. 

A row over compensation has ensued following the unfortunate incident, which took place on 27 July 2016 near Plockton on the Inverness to Kyle of Lochalsh line.

It is thought that the cow, independently valued at £2,450, made its way onto the railway because of poorly maintained fences alongside the track.

After months of subsequent correspondence, Network Rail has refused liability – claiming that the cow had wandered off of its field, but the local farmer John MacLennan maintains that the animal had been on common grazing land at Strathie and didn’t do anything wrong.

Constituency MSP Kate Forbes has written to Network Rail in support of Mr MacLennan, asking for an offer of compensation as well as calling for the rail organisation to expedite repairs on line-side fencing. 

The MSP for Skye, Lochaber and Badenoch said: “If the fences alongside the track are in good order, it should be nigh impossible for cattle to make it onto a railway line.

“It has come to my attention that Network Rail are going to improve and build two miles of fence at this particular area in April.

“Whilst I very much welcome any improvement and investment on the line, it does seem to indicate that the present standard of fencing is not up to scratch.

“With that in mind, I believe that Network Rail should be making an offer of compensation.”

Kate Forbes MSP added: “I have spoken to the local farmer, who informs me that his cow was valued at almost £2,500 by the head auctioneer at the Dingwall mart.

“That is a considerable sum of money for farmers on the west coast.

“I also understand that a number of other farmers have lost livestock due to a similar issue.

“Against this backdrop, I believe that Network Rail should conduct a review into whether all of their fences across the Highlands are suitably maintained.

“It’s not fair that farmers are having to take on a David and Goliath fight to try and get compensation from Network Rail for the loss of their animals, through no fault of their own.”

The latest available figures from the RSSB (Rail Safety and Standards Board) showed that in 2012/13 there were 93 “animal strike incidents” in Scotland.

According to Network Rail, the associated cost of animal on the line incidents across the UK that year was around £4.9 million.

The most recent fatal animal strike incident occurred at Polmont back in 1984, when 13 people died and 14 suffered major injuries after an Edinburgh to Glasgow train struck a cow whilst travelling at 85mph.

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