Scotrail are currently considering a proposal to terminate rail journeys at Strathcarron to allow road traffic to flow more freely through the diversion on the Stromeferry bypass.
At a meeting in Lochcarron last week, Colin Howell (pictured), Highland Council’s head of infrastructure, said that the ‘road to rail’ diversion on the bypass, where important stabilisation work to the rockface is being carried out, could stay open to traffic for an extra 80 minutes each day if Scotrail would agree to do this. It would involved taking passengers by bus from Strathcarron to stations along the line to Kyle of Lochalsh.
At the moment, even when a train has gone passed the bypass, that section of line must remain closed until the train reaches either Kyle or Strathcarron. Mr Howell said that Transport Scotland and Transport Minister Michael Matheson are considering this.
A spokesman for Transport Scotland said Scotrail are looking at the proposal, which will have to be approved by the Mr Matheson.
He added: ““We are pleased that there has been cooperation between Highland Council and the ScotRail Alliance [a new partnership between Abellio Scotrail and Network Rail] to facilitate the essential works on the Council’s A890 road.
“We appreciate that, notwithstanding this cooperation, there is disruption for road uses during the passage of the normal train service. We have asked colleagues in the ScotRail Alliance to consider if there are any practical options further to minimise disruption to road users during the road works whilst still maintaining services upon which rail passengers depend.”
Skye and Lochalsh MP Ian Blackford supported the introduction to the buses from Strathcarron.
He added: “Network Rail seem to be sticking their fingers in their ears over this. A number of mistakes from both the rail company and Highland Council have led to the situation that we are in now and have been for some time.”
“Network Rail must stop some of the trains coming from Inverness at Strathcarron and then arrange a bus service going onto Stromeferry. That would alleviate the ridiculous waiting times that passengers travelling by road are experiencing.”
“The current way of working has caused no end of problems. We have kids being stranded on buses for hours and cues over 100 cars deep in both directions. To be fair the council at least seem willing to listen. We now need to get all parties round the table and hammer out a plan on this as quickly as possible, the current situation cannot continue.”