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Railway Crossing at Dalwhinnie

Re: Railway Crossing at Dalwhinnie

Postby davekeiller » Sun Aug 01, 2021 11:39 am

To add to my previous comment.
There seem to be a couple of issues here:
1. If this is on a right of way, then it's illegal for Network Rail to unilaterally close the level crossing, so the opposition is really a point of principle
2. There are a number of other hills in the region that are also accessed by level crossings. In these cases, there isn't necessarily a sensible alternative. If Network Rail close those level crossings, then they're effectively barring access to those hills. It's therefore about setting a precedent of keeping access open.
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Re: Railway Crossing at Dalwhinnie

Postby Paul Webster » Sun Aug 01, 2021 12:06 pm

For more info:

https://www.strathspey-herald.co.uk/news/anger-in-dalwhinnie-after-well-used-level-crossing-is-locked-246348/

Beside the hillwalking impact and loss of current and planned parking facilities, the loop walk is the only real short circular dog walk available locally.

The article doesn't mention that the route is on registers of Public Rights of Way/ Thieve's Road, but the register is disputed by Network Rail. Apparently there is no definitive map of these in Scotland so any final determination would take a court case.
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Re: Railway Crossing at Dalwhinnie

Postby Sunset tripper » Sun Aug 01, 2021 2:07 pm

davekeiller wrote:To add to my previous comment.
There seem to be a couple of issues here:
1. If this is on a right of way, then it's illegal for Network Rail to unilaterally close the level crossing, so the opposition is really a point of principle
2. There are a number of other hills in the region that are also accessed by level crossings. In these cases, there isn't necessarily a sensible alternative. If Network Rail close those level crossings, then they're effectively barring access to those hills. It's therefore about setting a precedent of keeping access.


Agreed, but there doesn't seem to be a lot of joined up thinking as far as Network Rail is concerned. The government are in control here so it shouldn't be a problem for them to put whoever came out with this in their place. If Network Rail perceive a safety issue here they should put in a safe crossing.
The Balsporran crossing has always been more of a safety concern and no reason why they won't close this without a 2nd thought. There is an underpass a couple of miles down the road after all.
Good to see some direct action from the locals. Hillwalkers representatives have very little success representing their members unfortunately and unlikely to have any impact as we have seen with parking issues and unnecessary covid restrictions. Also good to see Kate Forbes getting involved and hopefully it isn't all bluster.
The government has the power to force Network Rail to put in a super safe crossing at Balsporran, Dalwhinnie and many other places but if they are willing to invest is another matter.
Unfortunately the present government has been on watch while access rights have been eroded and on some occassions they have helped to directly restrict access themselves.
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Re: Railway Crossing at Dalwhinnie

Postby Moriarty » Sun Aug 01, 2021 9:32 pm

Sunset tripper wrote:The government has the power to force Network Rail to put in a super safe crossing at Balsporran, Dalwhinnie and many other places but if they are willing to invest is another matter.


Is that an informed statement based in fact? Or simply speculative?

Which government? UK or ScotGov? Who has to be willing to invest?

I'm not sure - I was under the impression that political pressure could be brought to bear on Network Rail, but I wasn't aware that ScotGov or UK Gov could mandate actions of them. Be interested to see links to the facts.
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Re: Railway Crossing at Dalwhinnie

Postby Sunset tripper » Sun Aug 01, 2021 10:55 pm

Moriarty wrote:
Sunset tripper wrote:The government has the power to force Network Rail to put in a super safe crossing at Balsporran, Dalwhinnie and many other places but if they are willing to invest is another matter.


Is that an informed statement based in fact? Or simply speculative?

Which government? UK or ScotGov? Who has to be willing to invest?

I'm not sure - I was under the impression that political pressure could be brought to bear on Network Rail, but I wasn't aware that ScotGov or UK Gov could mandate actions of them. Be interested to see links to the facts.


You can look up the links for yourself I'm sure.
I thought it was fairly obvious, especially at the moment where the government ie taxpayer (UK and scottish) is bankrolling the entire railway. You call it political pressure or a mandate but in the real world it's just playing with words. Being voted into power and controlling the purse strings is surely a mandate but if not political pressure would be just as good.

If the scottish government says it wants these crossings made safe and open it will happen.

You could always ask your MP/MSP if you were genuinely interested in such things.
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Re: Railway Crossing at Dalwhinnie

Postby Clach Liath » Mon Aug 02, 2021 4:28 pm

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Re: Railway Crossing at Dalwhinnie

Postby Clach Liath » Mon Aug 02, 2021 4:43 pm

Sunset tripper wrote:
davekeiller wrote:To add to my previous comment.
There seem to be a couple of issues here:
1. If this is on a right of way, then it's illegal for Network Rail to unilaterally close the level crossing, so the opposition is really a point of principle
2. There are a number of other hills in the region that are also accessed by level crossings. In these cases, there isn't necessarily a sensible alternative. If Network Rail close those level crossings, then they're effectively barring access to those hills. It's therefore about setting a precedent of keeping access.


Agreed, but there doesn't seem to be a lot of joined up thinking as far as Network Rail is concerned. The government are in control here so it shouldn't be a problem for them to put whoever came out with this in their place. If Network Rail perceive a safety issue here they should put in a safe crossing.


Au contraire - NR have a policy of closing as many crossings as they can. This will be on "safety" grounds, i.e.

https://www.networkrail.co.uk/communities/living-by-the-railway/level-crossing-closures/

Sunset tripper wrote:The Balsporran crossing has always been more of a safety concern and no reason why they won't close this without a 2nd thought. There is an underpass a couple of miles down the road after all.


Agreed. There could be a risk. NR would have to disclose its crossings' closure strategy.

Sunset tripper wrote:Good to see some direct action from the locals. Hillwalkers representatives have very little success representing their members unfortunately and unlikely to have any impact as we have seen with parking issues and unnecessary covid restrictions. Also good to see Kate Forbes getting involved and hopefully it isn't all bluster.
The government has the power to force Network Rail to put in a super safe crossing at Balsporran, Dalwhinnie and many other places but if they are willing to invest is another matter.


Not in the real world. Only if there are votes in it. There would be no business case for providing "a super safe crossing". NR is given a budget and has to work out its spending priorities within that budget. I doubt if crossings at Dalwhinnie or Balsporran will come high up in its priorities. It is cheaper just to close it to the public and to limit access to the estate.

Sunset tripper wrote:Unfortunately the present government has been on watch while access rights have been eroded and on some occassions they have helped to directly restrict access themselves.


If correct, that rather indicates that it will not step in here?
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Re: Railway Crossing at Dalwhinnie

Postby Moriarty » Mon Aug 02, 2021 5:26 pm

Sunset tripper wrote:You could always ask your MP/MSP if you were genuinely interested in such things.


Thanks for clarifying. Despite having a browse round various information I don't know for sure what powers lie where with various authorities either.

My prediction, like yours, speculative and based on incomplete knowledge of the power structures, is that ScotGov probably have limited options to force specific action from Network Rail if NR is discharging its statutory duties (rail safety and alternative access provision in this case).

There is "soft power" - political pressure which could push for a reversal, and then of course regional or national authorities could stump up a budget for alternative crossing (very unlikely).

Most likely outcomes - NR get their way and alternative access is via the underpass or NR back down to the previous status quo for a period of consultation. Unlikely to see a rail bridge - unlikely to be felt good value for money.

It would be interesting to hear from someone with expertise in the topic though.
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Re: Railway Crossing at Dalwhinnie

Postby davekeiller » Mon Aug 02, 2021 7:53 pm

As I understand it, Network Rail is state owned but operationally independent.
In other words, the board is accountable to the relevant minister in the same way that the board of a private company is accountable to its owners. However, politicians are not responsible for the day-to-day running of NR, nor for the detail of decisions like this.
There may also be some ambiguity as to which department would be responsible for issues like this, and whether or not it's devolved to Holyrood.

Frankly, I doubt the politicians would be particularly interested in a footpath over a level crossing in a remote part of Scotland. They aren't even interested in the fact that Scotrail only run a 6 day per week service when the contract is for a seven day a week service.
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Re: Railway Crossing at Dalwhinnie

Postby Robert Haynes » Mon Aug 02, 2021 10:15 pm

Moriarty wrote:It would be interesting to hear from someone with expertise in the topic though.

I've brought the matter up with some rail professionals of my acquaintance. There are essentially four options:

Firstly, keep the crossing open as-is. This is fundamentally dangerous, relying on users being alert at all times. This can't be guaranteed; the only reason that the safety record seems good is that the number of users is low.

Secondly, close the crossing to the public. This is cheap and easy, but obviously cuts access. In cases where there's a viable alternative route, this is the rail industry's preferred option.

Thirdly, a bridge could be installed which removes the conflict but is intrusive, expensive and causes issues with planning permission.

Fourthly, a pedestrian crossing can be fitted with signal lights similar to crossing the road at a signalised junction. This sounds like an ideal solution, but needs to be integrated into the railway signalling system. As a result, it's actually incredibly complex and expensive to implement in anything but the simplest situations.

In the case of Dalwhinnie, the rail industry's view is that the underbridge near the petrol station is an adequate alternative crossing as it's relatively close by and on good roads.
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Re: Railway Crossing at Dalwhinnie

Postby Sunset tripper » Mon Aug 02, 2021 10:49 pm

Clach Liath wrote:
Au contraire - NR have a policy of closing as many crossings as they can. This will be on "safety" grounds, i.e.

https://www.networkrail.co.uk/communities/living-by-the-railway/level-crossing-closures/



As far as Network Rail is concerned none of that applies. They are not closing the crossing, in fact the crossing will still be in use. Network Rails line (pardon the pun) is that they are trying to make it more difficult for people to use it illegally (ie unauthorised users), which it seems is what they are suggesting has been happening when walkers or cyclists have been using it in the past.

If they recognised it as a crossing point for walkers access it would surely be more difficult to now lock it up as there has been no consultation, not even with the estate apparently. The excerpt below is taken from your link regarding crossing closures and in this case it doesn't look like any consultation took place at all maybe because NR are not portraying it as a closure but a measure to prevent illegal access.
Screenshot_20210802-190347_Chrome.jpg


Previous messages from the British Transport Police have suggested that it was a legal crossing point for walkers and hopefully this will put a spanner in the works.
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Re: Railway Crossing at Dalwhinnie

Postby rabthecairnterrier » Mon Aug 02, 2021 11:31 pm

Whereas transport including rail is mostly a devolved issue, Network Rail which manages railway infrastructure is ultimately controlled by and responsible to the UK government.
Network Rail must operate within the bounds of the law of the land. Last I looked, Dalwhinnie is still in Scotland, so Network Rail cannot unilaterally decide to close a RoW without following due procedure. If they want to close the crossing then they must provide a suitable alternative route. It's arguable as to whether the underpass - given its distance from the original route - would meet that definition.
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Re: Railway Crossing at Dalwhinnie

Postby Sunset tripper » Tue Aug 03, 2021 1:22 am

rabthecairnterrier wrote:Whereas transport including rail is mostly a devolved issue, Network Rail which manages railway infrastructure is ultimately controlled by and responsible to the UK government.
Network Rail must operate within the bounds of the law of the land. Last I looked, Dalwhinnie is still in Scotland, so Network Rail cannot unilaterally decide to close a RoW without following due procedure. If they want to close the crossing then they must provide a suitable alternative route. It's arguable as to whether the underpass - given its distance from the original route - would meet that definition.


Network Rail can and have decided that the crossing is closed for general access and I believe it is now locked.
There are definitely some questions need answered though, and should have been answered before the gates were locked.

1. Has it always, by the letter of the law, been illegal (for walkers cyclists etc.) to use the crossing?

2. Is it now illegal to use the crossing because the gates are locked?

3. Has a safety issue been created by locking the gates?

4. What is the BTP position on the gate being locked and people using the crossing now?


Moriarty wrote:

Most likely outcomes - NR get their way and alternative access is via the underpass or NR back down to the previous status quo for a period of consultation.

Yes, that's reasonable assumptions.

Unlikely to see a rail bridge - unlikely to be felt good value for money.



There already is a footbridge about 200m to the north and could possibly be used to gain access without a great amount of work.

See link below :thumbup:

Ben Alder Rd
https://maps.app.goo.gl/Q3avM1oscZGhi3jv8
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Re: Railway Crossing at Dalwhinnie

Postby Phil the Hill » Tue Aug 03, 2021 1:23 pm

I used the crossing on 2 June 2021 to bike in to Ben Alder. There was a man on duty at the crossing who told me there was a problem with the new Hitachi trains, in that their horns didn't work properly and new parts had to be obtained from Japan. He was therefore operating the gate for walkers. He wasn't around on my return 2 days later, but I managed to cross safely keeping a good look out for trains.
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Re: Railway Crossing at Dalwhinnie

Postby davekeiller » Tue Aug 03, 2021 7:48 pm

I can confirm that on Saturday 31st July 2021, the gates were locked. Below is a photograph of the sign on the gate.

It would appear that Network Rail believe that this is, and always has been, a private level crossing for the use of the Ben Alder estate, and them only. I assume that their belief is that they therefore haven't actually closed the crossing so much as prevented its illegal use.
Whether that is the case is a matter of fact that I am not qualified to judge.
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