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Rail safety barriers could be installed by end of year at danger crossing in Aviemore

By Gavin Musgrove

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Police at the Dalfaber level crossing a short time after the accident on Sunday.
Police at the Dalfaber level crossing a short time after the accident on Sunday.

There are hopes that automatic half-barriers could be installed at a railway level-crossing in Aviemore before the end of the year after a serious accident was narrowly avoided at the weekend.

Highland Council has said the long-called for safety measure at Dalfaber on the Strathspey Steam Railway line might be in operation by late Autumn.

Police investigations are continuing after a car hit a train at the crossing on Sunday afternoon at 1.50pm.

The female driver suffered minor injuries and shock and the front of her Ford car sustained collision damage to its front in what one person at the scene described as a 'side swipe'.

A Highland Council spokesperson said yesterday: "Discussions are ongoing between the council, a developer and the Strathspey Railway – with the intention of undertaking the installation of barriers commencing in late Autumn to coincide with the reduction in train traffic to minimise the disruption during the construction works."

A serious accident occurred at the level crossing in spring 2005 when a Toyota Micra being driven by local woman was hit by a train and taken 100 metres down the line.

She had to be cut from the wreckage and suffered serious but not life-threatening injuries.

A spate of near misses have been reported by motorists over the years.

Councillor Bill Lobban has said barrier is long overdue at crossing.
Councillor Bill Lobban has said barrier is long overdue at crossing.

Badenoch and Strathspey councillor Bill Lobban, who lives across the railway line at Dalfaber, said: “Fortunately this time no one appears to have been seriously injured although when I spoke to the driver and passengers a few minutes after it happened they were very shook up.

"Everyone who uses this level crossing knows how dangerous it is and whilst it has been quite some time since the last major incident it is only a matter of time before the next one.

"Ten years ago railway regulators deemed the crossing unfit for further traffic and yet development continues and there still is a planning condition for the new housing around the golf course that the crossing must be upgraded.

"It’s not the Strathspey Steam Railway's fault nor the council’s but the deficiencies of the planning system mean that a host of developers have escaped having to pay a penny with only the final developer left picking up the tab.

"Whilst I would admit that seems more than a little unfair given current house prices in the area I’m sure re-developing the crossing won't break the bank."

The car at the accident scene.
The car at the accident scene.

The two half-barriers are to be funded by the developer of housing by the Macdonald Spey Valley golf course as part of an associated planning condition.

Joe Boyle, Scotia Homes project director, told the Strathy: “Scotia Homes has agreed terms for the purchase of land off Dalfaber Drive, next to the Spey Valley Golf Course, from Davall Developments (Dalfaber) for the development of 74 houses.

"The purchase of the land is subject to the resolution of matters relating to Highland Council’s responsibility in maintaining and upgrading the level crossing at Dalfaber Drive.

"Until then, neither Davall Developments (Dalfaber) or Scotia has a role to play in maintaining or upgrading the level crossing.

“However, as it is widely acknowledged that the level crossing is not currently compliant, Scotia has already invested in appointing specialist teams of consultants to identify requirements, consult with key stakeholders, and advance the design process for the upgrades needed to improve its safety.

"Negotiations are ongoing with Highland Council and only when we reach a satisfactory conclusion will the development at Dalfaber progress.”

A Cairngorms National Park Authority spokeswoman said they were not directly involved in the matter: "Any negotiations are between the developers, Highland Council and the Strathspey Steam Railway Company.

"The CNPA’s role has only been as planning authority for some planning applications and has applied conditions and legal agreements to ensure no occupation of houses until the crossing has been upgraded to the appropriate standards of the regulating authorities for railway crossings."

A spokesman for the steam railway company said: "The SRC does not wish to make any comment at the moment."

A Scottish Ambulance Service spokesperson said: "We received a call from the police at 2pm to attend to the incident at Strathspey level crossing and our first responder arrived at 2.19pm.

"Two further crews arrived shortly after, and no patients required transportation to hospital."

An eye-witness said that the level crossing warning lights were working at the time of the accident.

Police and the railway company have raised concerns in the past about drivers running the lights and ignoring warning bells.

But there are also claims that at certain times of the day direct sunlight can make it difficult for motorists to see the red warning lights.

A Police Scotland spokesperson told the Strathy yesterday the enquiries into Sunday's accident are still ongoing.

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