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'Ladies travel by rail!' says Grantown project

By Tom Ramage

The Strathspey Rails to Grantown project has announced its two Patrons.

Patrons of the railway
Patrons of the railway

They were honoured guests at an on-train reception staged this week by the Stathspey Railway Charitable Trust, which was established in 2008 to bring the railway back to Grantown.

The reception was staged on Tuesday (July 9) in the panoramic former LMS Officers Saloon, with Lady Judy McAlpine of Moffat (pictured left) and Lady Jean Macpherson of Biallid announced as the inaugural 'Patrons of the Rails to Grantown Project'.

The reception brought together potential supporters and key local stakeholders including

representatives from adjoining landowners, the CNPA, the Grantown Business Association and

the Grantown Initiative, together with those from the Strathspey Railway to refresh the Trust’s

funding, community awareness and networking campaigns.

The appointments build on the relationship that the ladies have developed with the

trust, the romantic memories of visits to the railway with their late husbands and their desire,

indeed infectious enthusiasm to make a difference to the project, by engaging with individuals of influence and potentially benevolent corporations.

John Yule, chairman of the Strathspey Railway Charitable Trust, said: "The return of the railway to

Grantown is not just about the railway, but more importantly the positive impact it will have on the

community and local economy.

"Rails to Grantown is a potentially transformative infrastructure-driven local regeneration project that will bring people, spend and jobs to the area, not to mention a rail link to the national rail network in Aviemore - a connection broken by the Beeching cuts of the 1960s.

"As a trust and a railway, we are working hard to put the regulatory TAWS Order documentation in place to secure the necessary consent from the Scottish Government.

"Another current key challenge for us is the required circa £2m funding as our contribution to the

replacement of the local authority removed A95 road crossing at Gaich with a rail under bridge.

"Today’s reception and the bringing together of key parties has opened the next stage of our

campaign to identify sources of funding for this significant, but achievable amount."

The trust believes that returning the railway to Grantown contributes to the CNPA’s strategic

economic and transport objectives and authenticity values. It has been identified as the only

significant plausible potential economic development project for the Grantown Initiative Action


As the main beneficiary will be the local economy, the Grantown Initiative has designated it as top priority. The Railway’s vision is also to increase visitor numbers and the length

of stays in Grantown and Aviemore, in part by strong marketing, better linked with other local

attractions (including a planned distillery) and similar themed attractions throughout Scotland and

the UK.

With an overall project cost of some £10m, the Rails to Grantown project is costly because it

requires, in addition to track laying, railway infrastructure and fencing by volunteers:

• A replacement bridge over the river Dulnain (completed with private sector contributions-in-kind

in 2014)

• The reinstatement of the railway track bed at Gaich following its intended only temporary

removal by the then local roads authority, together with the accommodation of the railway

crossing below a trunk road following the A95’s upgrading, requiring significant additional

associated road infrastructure

• A replacement station in Grantown following the removal of the original station by the local

authority to make way for an industrial estate. The planned replacement station will be closer to

Grantown’s historic Square and retail centre

• A TAWS Order from the Scottish Government which is more comprehensive and demanding

than previous Light Railway Orders, requiring significant technical and professional inputs as

well as evidence of financial viability, economic assessments and environmental impact surveys

• Land use arrangements with a number of different local owners.

The track was uplifted and infrastructure removed despite the Aviemore to

Grantown section having been recommended for retention in the Beeching Inquiry in 1964, by the

Cairngorms Working Group in 1967, and by the HIDB with the support of the SSforS in 1968/9, as

a tourist facility.

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