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Rail concerns over timetable for planned airport station

By Gregor White

The rail crossing at Petty which will have to close.
The rail crossing at Petty which will have to close.

A DOUBLE whammy of potential objections and a funding shortfall could see plans for a major new Invernessrailway station facing a bumpy ride.

Highland councillors unanimously approved a proposed new station for Dalcross, a mile from Inverness Airport, in February.

However, following concerns raised by locals, they withheld permission for the closing of a nearby level crossing, a key part of the project, telling transport partnership Hitrans they would have to apply to Scottish ministers for the go-ahead.

Even a single objection could lead to the plans having to be subjected to a local public inquiry, and this week Ardersier and Petty Community Council confirmed that, as things stand, they will object when any application to close the crossing is made.

Locals have said closure could leave them facing a three-mile diversion to reach the A96 and community council secretary Shane Spence said: “We don’t have any objection to the station at all, and in fact think it could be a very good thing if it boosts the performance of the airport, but the closure of the level crossing could have a major impact if it goes ahead.

“A and, as things stand, we will be objecting whenever the plans are published.”

Hitrans partnership manager Frank Roach said: “We will obviously be going through the consultative process with local communities and others and if there are objections that is something we will have to deal with and work through.”

Hitrans plans to hold a community consultation event and to meet with community councillors but plans are on hold until the new Highland Council is in place following elections on Thursdayon May 4.

“It’s too early to say what kind of impact objections could have to the timetable for the station but at the moment I would hope we could get the station constructed in 2018 for potential opening in early 2019,” said Mr Roach.

At a Hitrans meeting earlier this month a report confirmed the project also faces a shortfall of £1.3 million, with Network Rail having estimated £5 million for construction costs.

Mr Roach said there was little scope for cutting back costs on such a “relatively simple” project.

“We are in discussion with government and other stakeholders to identify the extra funds that will be needed,” he said.

Plans for the station include a 575ft- long platform with waiting areas and shelters as well as space for 50 short-stay and 100 long-stay parking spaces and a cycle park.

A possible second phase would include a passing loop for trains as well as a second platform.

A shuttle bus would operate between the airport terminal and the station and forecasts have suggested the station could become the second busiest in the north of Scotland after Inverness itself, with passenger volumes of 40,000 a year by 2075.

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