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Railway Crossing at Dalwhinnie

Re: Railway Crossing at Dalwhinnie

Postby rabthecairnterrier » Tue Aug 03, 2021 10:58 pm

Network Rail may well believe it has the authority to close this crossing to the general public, but -as the song says - "It ain't necessarily so." This route is almost certainly a legal Right of Way. It is delineated as an established route on Roy's map of the area in 1755, which long predates the building of the railway in 1863.
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Re: Railway Crossing at Dalwhinnie

Postby al78 » Wed Aug 04, 2021 3:10 pm

rabthecairnterrier wrote:Network Rail may well believe it has the authority to close this crossing to the general public, but -as the song says - "It ain't necessarily so." This route is almost certainly a legal Right of Way. It is delineated as an established route on Roy's map of the area in 1755, which long predates the building of the railway in 1863.


If the right of way is accessible via a subway a short walk away, they can claim they haven't blocked off a right of way. If they have closed the crossing but there exists feasible alternative access to the right of way for pedestrians, have they infringed any access law?

I have considered walking that route from Dalwhinnie to Fort William, maybe with a couple of extra nights camping to climb some of the munros en-route, although I have heard the route from loch Treig along the upper reaches of glen Nevis is a bog fest.
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Re: Railway Crossing at Dalwhinnie

Postby Robert Haynes » Wed Aug 04, 2021 3:50 pm

al78 wrote:
rabthecairnterrier wrote:Network Rail may well believe it has the authority to close this crossing to the general public, but -as the song says - "It ain't necessarily so." This route is almost certainly a legal Right of Way. It is delineated as an established route on Roy's map of the area in 1755, which long predates the building of the railway in 1863.


If the right of way is accessible via a subway a short walk away, they can claim they haven't blocked off a right of way. If they have closed the crossing but there exists feasible alternative access to the right of way for pedestrians, have they infringed any access law?

I have considered walking that route from Dalwhinnie to Fort William, maybe with a couple of extra nights camping to climb some of the munros en-route, although I have heard the route from loch Treig along the upper reaches of glen Nevis is a bog fest.

Even if there is a right of way from Dalwhinnie along the northern shore of Loch Ericht, it isn't necessarily the one that Network Rail have closed! The route shown on Roy's map appears to more closely follow the route through the railway underbridge. It's difficult to judge, though: it's large-scale map, the cartography of the 1750s wasn't up to today's standards, and the Hydro Board helpfully extended the lake by 900 metres towards Dalwhinnie.

If there is a right of way through the locked crossing - and the existence of a path on an old map doesn't necessarily mean that there is one, rights of way laws being weird and complicated - then stopping it up requires a legal procedure to be followed. In this case, the existing alternative route nearby would count in Network Rail's favour, but simply blocking it unilaterally wouldn't be acceptable. It could be argued that even if there wasn't a right of way, the railway - by not taking action to prevent trespass - has allowed one to be created.

They, though, appear to consider that there is not a right of way across the railway, and that the crossing they provide is or permitted users only. If the right of way never existed, or else was extinguished at some previous date, then they are entirely within their rights to restrict use of the crossing. Such crossings are, after all, extremely dangerous, and Network Rail has been trying to get rid of existing ones for quite some time.
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Re: Railway Crossing at Dalwhinnie

Postby Moriarty » Wed Aug 04, 2021 5:26 pm

Sunset tripper wrote: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


It is odd that this fact has not been raised at all, a few hundred metres of path to that bridge would seem to be a win-win solution. :thumbup:
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Re: Railway Crossing at Dalwhinnie

Postby weaselmaster » Wed Aug 04, 2021 9:53 pm

Moriarty wrote:
Sunset tripper wrote: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


It is odd that this fact has not been raised at all, a few hundred metres of path to that bridge would seem to be a win-win solution. :thumbup:


Or similarly, to run a track from the walkers car park to the underpass to the south - it's 0.5km following the line of the rail track, but it's three times as long if you walk from the car park back along the road to the petrol station road / underpass.
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Re: Railway Crossing at Dalwhinnie

Postby Sunset tripper » Fri Aug 06, 2021 8:12 pm

If I arrived by car and cycling which is my usual mode of transport at Dalwhinnie I would probably use the underpass, but I wouldn't be paying £3 to park at the petrol station. I will leave that facility for folk who really need to park there. :D

If I come off the train which I do on occasion I will jump the gates. As far as I know it is a right of way and I don't think anyone has come out and said it is illegal to cross there, not even Network Rail, after all folk have been crossing there for decades. :D
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Re: Railway Crossing at Dalwhinnie

Postby Moriarty » Sat Aug 07, 2021 7:40 am

Sunset tripper wrote:If I come off the train which I do on occasion I will jump the gates. As far as I know it is a right of way and I don't think anyone has come out and said it is illegal to cross there, not even Network Rail, after all folk have been crossing there for decades. :D


I'm sure a lot of people will. I'd keep my wits about me doing so though - Phase 2 of imposing restrictions is usually making a song and dance about enforcement.

Would not be surprised if one fine weekend sees the British Transport Police hanging around there aiming to collar a few walkers and issue fines, with associated publicity.
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Re: Railway Crossing at Dalwhinnie

Postby allanglens » Sat Aug 07, 2021 3:26 pm

Moriarty wrote:
Sunset tripper wrote:If I come off the train which I do on occasion I will jump the gates. As far as I know it is a right of way and I don't think anyone has come out and said it is illegal to cross there, not even Network Rail, after all folk have been crossing there for decades. :D


I'm sure a lot of people will. I'd keep my wits about me doing so though - Phase 2 of imposing restrictions is usually making a song and dance about enforcement.

Would not be surprised if one fine weekend sees the British Transport Police hanging around there aiming to collar a few walkers and issue fines, with associated publicity.


Not sure they will - issuing fines so quickly after the legality of the closure being publicised is asking for a refusal to pay ending up in court. Which unless they are certain of their rights may not produce the result they want They may prefer just to let things lie and for people to get used to the closure
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Re: Railway Crossing at Dalwhinnie

Postby Alex W » Sat Aug 07, 2021 6:53 pm

Somebody set earlier that the BTP were not at all signed up to treating the crossing as a trespass. BTP won't just do the bidding of Network Rail. They will need to be convinced that regular and systematic law breaking is taking place before they would mount an operation. At the moment I don't see either happening and I wouldn't think BTP woud be interested.
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Re: Railway Crossing at Dalwhinnie

Postby Sunset tripper » Sat Aug 07, 2021 8:05 pm

Moriarty wrote:
Sunset tripper wrote:If I come off the train which I do on occasion I will jump the gates. As far as I know it is a right of way and I don't think anyone has come out and said it is illegal to cross there, not even Network Rail, after all folk have been crossing there for decades. :D


I'm sure a lot of people will. I'd keep my wits about me doing so though - Phase 2 of imposing restrictions is usually making a song and dance about enforcement.

Would not be surprised if one fine weekend sees the British Transport Police hanging around there aiming to collar a few walkers and issue fines, with associated publicity.


Yes there is a risk it may come to that but I think things would have to escalate first.

Fortunately Network Rail do not make the laws. Their position appears to be that it has always been illegal for outdoorsy types to cross here. Putting a lock on the gate changes very little legally as far as I can see.

It's my understanding that Network Rail have asked the BTP to police the crossing but at the moment I don't think they see it as an issue, possibly other than the issue Network Rail have created themselves.

An interesting quote from a previous thread on WH.
Screenshot_20210807-135339_Chrome.jpg


If the above info is correct, the law doesn't suddenly change because Network Rail wish it to, or lock a gate for that matter.


Seems to be a bit of a greyish area, and might need to be thrashed out in a court case or a clarification of the law. :?
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Re: Railway Crossing at Dalwhinnie

Postby NickyRannoch » Tue Aug 10, 2021 12:38 am

Robert Haynes wrote:
al78 wrote:
rabthecairnterrier wrote:Network Rail may well believe it has the authority to close this crossing to the general public, but -as the song says - "It ain't necessarily so." This route is almost certainly a legal Right of Way. It is delineated as an established route on Roy's map of the area in 1755, which long predates the building of the railway in 1863.


Such crossings are, after all, extremely dangerous.


No they're not
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Re: Railway Crossing at Dalwhinnie

Postby Robert Haynes » Tue Aug 10, 2021 9:22 am

NickyRannoch wrote:
Robert Haynes wrote: Such crossings are, after all, extremely dangerous.


No they're not

The railway industry would beg to differ. That's why they're trying to remove this kind of crossing everywhere in the UK. When it comes to safely operating railways, they're the experts.

Remember, trains are fast, quiet, and take a long time to stop. Safely using an uncontrolled crossing is heavily dependent on you, the user, being extremely alert. Even if you are alert, you may only have a very short period where an oncoming train is visible at all. At the end of a long day on the hill, when you might be wet, tired, and ready to get home, can you guarantee that your entire party will notice an oncoming train and get well clear of the line before the train arrives?

Dalwhinnie LC in particular might be lower risk than most, as many trains will be slow because of the station or the points at the north end. But a northbound train might be charging through the station at 70mph. At Balsporran, almost all trains will be running through at 80 or 90mph. Judging distance and time at those speeds is extremely difficult.

The only reason that walkers aren't regularly killed crossing railway lines is that there aren't very many walkers and the lines in question have relatively low levels of traffic. As soon as someone is killed - and eventually they will be - there'll be demands to Do Something. It needn't be someone heading for the hills: it could be a local walking their dog, or someone wanting to have a BBQ beside the loch.

Network Rail's view that walkers using these crossings are trespassing might, or might not, be nonsense. Given BTP's view, you're very unlikely to be prosecuted for using them. But they're still dangerous, and where viable alternatives exist closing them (through the proper procedures!) is an easy way of improving safety.
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Re: Railway Crossing at Dalwhinnie

Postby al78 » Tue Aug 10, 2021 9:59 am

Robert Haynes wrote:
NickyRannoch wrote:
Robert Haynes wrote: Such crossings are, after all, extremely dangerous.


No they're not

The railway industry would beg to differ. That's why they're trying to remove this kind of crossing everywhere in the UK. When it comes to safely operating railways, they're the experts.

Remember, trains are fast, quiet, and take a long time to stop. Safely using an uncontrolled crossing is heavily dependent on you, the user, being extremely alert. Even if you are alert, you may only have a very short period where an oncoming train is visible at all. At the end of a long day on the hill, when you might be wet, tired, and ready to get home, can you guarantee that your entire party will notice an oncoming train and get well clear of the line before the train arrives?

Dalwhinnie LC in particular might be lower risk than most, as many trains will be slow because of the station or the points at the north end. But a northbound train might be charging through the station at 70mph. At Balsporran, almost all trains will be running through at 80 or 90mph. Judging distance and time at those speeds is extremely difficult.

The only reason that walkers aren't regularly killed crossing railway lines is that there aren't very many walkers and the lines in question have relatively low levels of traffic. As soon as someone is killed - and eventually they will be - there'll be demands to Do Something. It needn't be someone heading for the hills: it could be a local walking their dog, or someone wanting to have a BBQ beside the loch.

Network Rail's view that walkers using these crossings are trespassing might, or might not, be nonsense. Given BTP's view, you're very unlikely to be prosecuted for using them. But they're still dangerous, and where viable alternatives exist closing them (through the proper procedures!) is an easy way of improving safety.


I disagree these specific crossings are extremely dangerous. The line here is gently curved and the sightlines are good. A train does not just appear out of nowhere (unless the person wanting to cross the line has their head buried in a smartphone). Trains are big, very conspicuous, bright yellow at the end, and do make significant noise, try living next to a main line and approporiate use of eyes and ears will get a walker across the line safely. The crossings which have notoriety for being dangerous are those where dangerous drivers keep trying to jump the barriers, and every so often one fails to judge properly. These crossings under discussion are completely different. Compare a level crossing to a road, which are full of cars, some of which can be quiet, some of which are driven by careless drivers, are much more likely to come on you unawares, yet millions of people manage to cross roads without incident every day, even crossing dual carriageways with vehicles going at 70 mph isn't a problem. Unfortunately the propaganda here seems to assume a population with pre-medieval inexperience of collision avoidance who have never had to avoid being hit by even a horse and cart.
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Re: Railway Crossing at Dalwhinnie

Postby nigheandonn » Tue Aug 10, 2021 10:45 am

It's not easy to find definite stats on level crossing accidents, but a study which looked at data from 1946-2009 found a steady average of 0.9 fatalities per year per thousand 'passive' crossings (only controlled by warning signs), of which there are now roughly 2000 in the UK.

Statistics being funny things, I don't *think* that means you'd wait an average of 1000 years for a death at Dalwhinnie, but neither would it appear to be a certainty in any of our lifetimes.

(Of course, the useful thing would be to know the number of crossings made across all these crossings, but I'm not sure there's any sensible way to even estimate it...)

Has any attempt been made to close the small crossings on the East Coast mainline in Northumberland? Not that I want them to be closed, but those would seem to be more dangerous (if still not very).
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Re: Railway Crossing at Dalwhinnie

Postby Robert Haynes » Tue Aug 10, 2021 10:47 am

al78 wrote:I disagree these specific crossings are extremely dangerous. The line here is gently curved and the sightlines are good. A train does not just appear out of nowhere (unless the person wanting to cross the line has their head buried in a smartphone). Trains are big, very conspicuous, bright yellow at the end, and do make significant noise, try living next to a main line and approporiate use of eyes and ears will get a walker across the line safely. The crossings which have notoriety for being dangerous are those where dangerous drivers keep trying to jump the barriers, and every so often one fails to judge properly. These crossings under discussion are completely different. Compare a level crossing to a road, which are full of cars, some of which can be quiet, some of which are driven by careless drivers, are much more likely to come on you unawares, yet millions of people manage to cross roads without incident every day, even crossing dual carriageways with vehicles going at 70 mph isn't a problem. Unfortunately the propaganda here seems to assume a population with pre-medieval inexperience of collision avoidance who have never had to avoid being hit by even a horse and cart.

The key differences between cars and trains are that cars have steering wheels and effective brakes. If you fail to see a car, or even an HGV, the driver has a pretty good chance of stopping or avoiding you. And yet, many people do get killed crossing the road - because that, too, is very dangerous. Which is why roads have proper crossing infrastructure in high risk areas.

Two people were killed using such crossings in 2019/2020, and there were 316 near misses. The fact that there hasn't been a fatal accident at Dalwhinnie yet doesn't mean it's safe, it just means that it's lightly used and people have been lucky so far. This is seen as a significant risk by the rail industry, and as such is one that they are going to try and mitigate.

In the case of Dalwhinnie, there is a viable alternative, and it's reasonable for them to expect people to use it. It's also reasonable for them to close the crossing to the public - but, if there is a right of way, they need to do so via the proper procedure. In some cases, like Balsporran, where there's no viable alternative, the railway may be forced to keep this kind of crossing open. Network Rail is undertaking work (called Project Meerkat) to develop a low-cost way of indicating whether it is safe to cross. But removing the option for the public to walk across a live railway line is always going to be the safest course of action.
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