Closure of the level crossing between Dalwhinnie and Ben Alder estate

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Hillwalkers rail against crossing closure
Jeremy Watson

Railway chiefs have been criticised for the "unacceptable" closure of a main line crossing that has cut off a popular hillwalking route in the Highlands.

Network Rail said that for safety reasons it had padlocked the private crossing connecting the village of Dalwhinnie and the Ben Alder estate and its munros to the west.

Walking groups, community leaders and local businesses said that locking the crossing would make it more dangerous, and reduce visitor numbers.

Brendan Paddy, of Ramblers Scotland, called the move unacceptable and said: "It is shocking that Network Rail failed to consult the local community, council or outdoor recreation groups".

Jen Dickinson, the chairwoman of Dalwhinnie community council, said: "Locking up the crossing is downright dangerous and will result in dog walkers, bakers and hillgoers with outdoor equipment climbing over the gates".

Network Rail said there was no requirement for a consultation as the crossing was privately owned, adding: "An alternative crossing point, via a road under the railway, is available a mile further along the line".

- The Times, Scotland edition, Monday 9th August 2021.

I quoted the article in full because it will be behind The Times paywall.

I remember that Highlandspring mentioned this crossing in another thread:

Ben Alder user worked level crossing near Dalwhinnie has been manned by an attendant for the passage of the Up and Down Highland Cheiftain daily since it went over to Azuma operation for the same reason. If the attendant isn’t on duty the train has to be cautioned.

Although Network Rail might have acted lawfully, it seems that they failed to consult effectively with the local community and the crossing users.
 
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Jen Dickinson, the chairwoman of Dalwhinnie community council, said: "Locking up the crossing is downright dangerous and will result in dog walkers, bakers and hillgoers with outdoor equipment climbing over the gates".

Surely that is down to those individuals?...
 

Meerkat

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Although Network Rail might have acted lawfully, it seems that they failed to consult effectively with the local community and the crossing users.
Consult effectively? What‘s the point and how would it be ‘effective’?
”we are allowed to do this and we are doing it”
”we don’t want you to do it”
”sorry you feel that way, still doing it”

ps why will bakers be climbing over gates??
 

waverley47

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Ultimately, it's a private user worked crossing, on private land, that has been designated high risk, and on an active line on quite a high speed section.

It needs to close sooner rather than later, and there alternatives available. The nearest crossing southbound is about 400m further on, and is an underbridge on a public road, so is much more suitable.

NR does need to make an effort to consult and engage more, but it's not the end of the world.
 
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ps why will bakers be climbing over gates??
Sorry for the typo - that should be "bikers".

Effective communication mitigates the public reaction to unpopular decisions; e.g. "We didn't want them to close the crossing, but we understand why they did".
 

InOban

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There is an official core path leading to and from this long-established crossing.

Have there been any incidents or near misses?

What is the visibility?

The Scots are rightly proud of their right to responsible access and are decidedly thrawn when attempts are made to block such.

I believe that the alternative crossing point is not as convenient as NR would like us to believe.

NR should concentrate on actual risks as evidenced by real incidents rather than theoretical risks.

How to lose friends...
 

Meerkat

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Sorry for the typo - that should be "bikers".

Effective communication mitigates the public reaction to unpopular decisions; e.g. "We didn't want them to close the crossing, but we understand why they did".
That’s communication, not consultation
 

Killingworth

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Ultimately, it's a private user worked crossing, on private land, that has been designated high risk, and on an active line on quite a high speed section.

It needs to close sooner rather than later, and there alternatives available. The nearest crossing southbound is about 400m further on, and is an underbridge on a public road, so is much more suitable.

NR does need to make an effort to consult and engage more, but it's not the end of the world.
Snag about that is walkers have been used to parking their cars beside the closed crossing and it's a mile to walk from there to the underpass! No doubt in time they'll find somewhere to park near there. As far as estate workers are concerned I'd think the closure will only be a minor inconvenience.
 

InOban

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I assume that's what has been locked. The main gate would always have been locked with only the laird and his underlings having keys.
 

Davester50

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Snag about that is walkers have been used to parking their cars beside the closed crossing and it's a mile to walk from there to the underpass! No doubt in time they'll find somewhere to park near there.
So this boils down to walkers complaining about walking.
 

Merseysider

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Perhaps the trains could slow just a bit, sacrificing a couple of valuable minutes.
Not gonna happen. There are paths to keep, particularly southbound. One train being 2/3 minutes later every day may need an entire recast of an area’s timetable.
 

Bald Rick

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So this boils down to walkers complaining about walking.

You’ll have to trust me here, but if you are walking out of the Ben Alder mountains to
Dalwhinnie, that extra mile will be excruciating! It’s a long way after a very long day up 6 hills. Most sensible people bike in and out, and thus the extra mile is neither here nor there.
 

Davester50

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You’ll have to trust me here, but if you are walking out of the Ben Alder mountains to
Dalwhinnie, that extra mile will be excruciating! It’s a long way after a very long day up 6 hills. Most sensible people bike in and out, and thus the extra mile is neither here nor there.
I spent many a holiday in Aviemore as a kid, and have done a lot of walking, you don't need to tell me about the Cairngorms!
 

InOban

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There must be hundreds of more dangerous crossings but they would be more expensive to sort. This allows someone to tick a box as done without costing anything. They could of course require trains to sound their horn at a suitable distance, or even move into the 21st century and have a solar or wind powered system which alerted potential users to the proximity of a train.

It is typical of the railway that in the interests of absolute safety it makes itself so awkward and expensive that people end up using more dangerous modes of transport.
 

Bald Rick

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I spent many a holiday in Aviemore as a kid, and have done a lot of walking, you don't need to tell me about the Cairngorms!

I presumably won’t need to tell you that Ben Alder isn’t in the Cairngorms either!

There must be hundreds of more dangerous crossings but they would be more expensive to sort. This allows someone to tick a box as done without costing anything. They could of course require trains to sound their horn at a suitable distance, or even move into the 21st century and have a solar or wind powered system which alerted potential users to the proximity of a train.

It is typical of the railway that in the interests of absolute safety it makes itself so awkward and expensive that people end up using more dangerous modes of transport.

I’m afraid you are wrong in this instance.
 

Davester50

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I presumably won’t need to tell you that Ben Alder isn’t in the Cairngorms either!
Touche.
Yes, there's a distance to get to Ben Alder, but from my days, the route from Coylumbridge along the Lairig Ghru and Ben Macdui Derry Cairngorm, is fun, and a fair walk.
A wee extra bit of walking, or heaven forbid finding another place to park, big deal!
 

Bald Rick

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Touche.
Yes, there's a distance to get to Ben Alder, but from my days, the route from Coylumbridge along the Lairig Ghru and Ben Macdui Derry Cairngorm, is fun, and a fair walk.
A wee extra bit of walking, or heaven forbid finding another place to park, big deal!

Now that is a walk... and agreed!
 

mcmad

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There is an official core path leading to and from this long-established crossing.

Have there been any incidents or near misses?

What is the visibility?

The Scots are rightly proud of their right to responsible access and are decidedly thrawn when attempts are made to block such.

I believe that the alternative crossing point is not as convenient as NR would like us to believe.

NR should concentrate on actual risks as evidenced by real incidents rather than theoretical risks.

How to lose friends...
Believe the legals have looked and there it is a private user crossing only as Highland spring posted above.

Yes

reasonable south, poor North

But again there is no legal right to cross the railway here.

they are.

(Edit) and whistle boards are already provided.
 

Highlandspring

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Believe the legals have looked and there it is a private user crossing only as Highland spring posted above.
I haven’t said anything on this thread and I won’t be commenting on it (other than this correction).
 

peteb

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This seems a bit bizarre, doesn't Scotland have footpath crossings with Stiles and stop look listen signs? Or maybe not because there are no footpath rights of way to extinguish as in England? The mainline between Gloucester and Yate has literally dozens of these, unless they have all been recently stopped up, and the line speed is 100mph.
 

Bald Rick

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I have a long experience on level crossing matters.

There is no way this crossing will have been closed without very senior agreement. That will have required a detailed assessment of risk, which will include the actual issues of misuse / abuse recorded at that specific crossing. AIUI there have been many. Alternatives will have been considered. Whistle boards may not be effective due to the layout, linespeed, and/or risk level, but they will have been considered. Installing some form of active protection takes time - and of course money, lots of it. This will also have been assessed - but the risk exists right now.

If the crossing was left open in its current format, with the risk assessment indicating it shouldn’t be, and someone ends up dead, the railway is in court; indeed individual managers’ liberty is at risk. This crossing is private, and therefore can be closed only with the agreement of the authorised user (presumably the Ben Alder estate). They have evidently agreed. Would you be willing to sign the paperwork that says a crossing known to have safety issues should stay open, certain in the knowledge that if somebody dies on the crossing you’ll be spending some time at Her Majesty’s Pleasure?
 

Essan

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The crossing has been used by walkers, cyclists and locals for decades without any reported problem.

According to the Factor, the Estate were not consulted, They are fully opposed to this closure.

The crossing is on the route of an ancient right of way (although it's possible the exact route, pre railway times, did not cross the future line at this particular point, this crossing has been the traditional place since it was instated - so over 100 years)

In recent years, use of the crossing by hillwalkers and cyclists has increased, as outdoor activities have become more popular. The Scottish Govt are in favour of encouraging outdoor activities.
 

InOban

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Perhaps if they published the incident log the public would understand. I don't recall any incidents serious enough to appear in the media.

One of the features of Scotland's right to roam is that the public are responsible for their own safety, not the landowner. The same should apply to users of the crossing, and I'm sure that those who have been using it accept that.
 

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