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Lochaber charity says Network Rail will close its respite care work for five months

Volunteers at Kirsty's Kids say Network Rail have caused damage near its respite home.
Volunteers at Kirsty's Kids say Network Rail have caused damage near its respite home.

A Lochaber children’s charity has claimed Network Rail is threatening its future amid plans for more than four months of works.

Respite home Kirsty’s Kids fears that the proposed 18 weeks of groundworks outside its building will stop any guests coming this year.

The charity, based in Lochailort, was set up by John and Jan Bryden after their daughter Kirsty was killed on the road near their home in 2010.

It works to improve the lives of all children, including those who are seriously ill or have learning disabilities and their siblings, and runs a home for care breaks.

Yesterday, Kirsty’s Kids organised a protest ahead of work starting – but Network Rail have insisted the project, which relates to maintaining the West Highland Line, cannot be avoided.

Mrs Bryden said she was frustrated after removing 21,000 gallons of  “muck” following a landslide the last time the company worked in the area and they did not want the same thing to happen again.

A rare orchid meadow was destroyed

In June last year, localised flooding brought a torrent of water and huge boulders cascading down the hill behind the Bryden’s home, causing structural damage to buildings and washing away most of the garden which they spent years converting for full wheelchair access.

Just 30 feet behind the Bryden property, the West Highland Railway line was also undermined in several places, leaving the track hanging in mid air.

Mrs Bryden claimed: “In June 2020 there was an adverse weather and there was a landslide. Network Rail diverted the watercourse and the water came running through our back garden. A rare orchid meadow was destroyed.

“We simply could not have people here – as the noise and the disruption was too much.

“People need support, families need somewhere to go but there is nothing we can do. It is not restful when all this work is going on.

“The railway was built back up but we were left to dig out all of the silt from our garden in and in the pond.

“People came to help us, because they wanted to see the garden opened back up. They care about the vulnerable children who come here. I don’t think Network Rail does.

“Although we have met with Network Rail and they said they would help they have failed to support us at all.”

‘There is another route’

She claimed the meadow of orchids behind the house is vulnerable from the last project, and insisted the latest work did not have to take place in this specific location.

She said: “There is another route to do the work, and to protect our meadow that is where it should take place.”

Network Rail confirmed it is in contact with Mr and Mrs Bryden regarding their claim for damage to land from previous engineering works.

It said it was planning more work in the area, but it is essential to the maintenance of the West Highland Line and cannot be avoided.

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