Rail workers doing a controversial upgrade at Bunchrew level crossing say they understand frustrated residents but they are ‘just doing their job’.
Those carrying out the ‘essential’ work have said they have had complaints from ‘trapped’ locals who ‘have not been abiding by the rules’.
And residents of Bunchrew have hit out after enduring another day of traffic chaos due to works on the village’s level crossing.
The small community four miles west of Inverness, are completely trapped for most of the day as the only road in and out of the village has been temporarily closed.
The struggle comes as Network Rail is undertaking upgrade works at Bunchrew level crossing on the Far North Line, which will not be finished until Sunday.
Going through Bunchrew level crossing, located at Englishton Muir road, is the only way for locals to access the A862 road to Inverness, whether by car, bicycle, or on foot.
However, the works, which started on Sunday, November 12, have led to the closure of the crossing for several hours a day, leaving the village completely isolated from the rest of the world.
Bunchrew locals complain about the closure of the crossing
The crossing is closed from 08:25 to 9:15, causing a disruption to commuters traveling to Inverness.
Meanwhile, every evening, the road closes until the following morning, leaving neighbours fully stuck overnight.
“The times are not even accurate,” a couple driving down Englishton Muir road just before its closure at 10:00 told the P&J.
They added: “People are having trouble going and coming from work. The council did not give us notification.”
They could not speak any longer: “We better get going or we’ll be trapped,” they said.
A worker fenced the access to the crossing around 10:05.
Shortly after, a Royal Mail van stopped right in front of the crossing.
The postman then started moving several boxes from the back of the van to one of the sides.
A neighbour who lives in one of the houses just before the crossing said: “Postmen have not been notified, so the people up the hill are not getting any letters or parcels this week.”
Railway workers in Bunchrew: “We’re only doing our job”
One of the workers at the railway crossing explained they have been getting complaints from residents.
“I’m just here to do my job,” he said.
Another worker said: “We’re only doing these works for their safety.
“If it wasn’t for us, they would not have a cross at all.”
He added: “I can understand is frustrating for people going to work, but we are also doing our work here.”
The worker explained that some people are not abiding by the rules.
“There was a woman the other day who just removed the fences and crossed the railway.”
Highland Council “aware of residents’ comments”
A Highland Council spokesperson said: “The Highland Council has liaised with Network Rail on essential works that are being carried out at a level crossing in Bunchrew.
“The works were permitted on the understanding that a consultation would take place with the community.
“The Council is aware of comments made by residents and will review the permit for works if a level of access cannot be maintained.”
Network Rail apologises for the inconvenience in Bunchrew
Network rail has apologised for the trouble caused by the upgrade works that are being carried out at Bunchrew level crossing.
A Network Rail spokesperson said: “We apologise for the inconvenience this work will cause and thank everyone for their patience and understanding.
“Our work to upgrade the Bunchrew level crossing is essential to help keep the railway and road users safe.”
The crossing is open during certain times, and outside of the arranged crossing times, we’ll work to allow those needing access to cross when possible.”
Why is work being carried out at Bunchrew level crossing?
Network Rail is investing £1.2m in the Bunchrew level crossing, which will be made safer by replacing the current equipment before it reaches the end of its working life.
The new level crossing will operate in the same way for users at Bunchrew and will now link into the railway’s signalling system.