Early plans have been submitted to build a replacement bridge at a Highland level crossing where two teenagers were killed in a horror crash.
Network Rail has submitted a scoping application to Highland Council’s planners for the structure at Delny in Easter Ross, which they hope will be finished by December 2020. This will facilitate the closure of the level crossing.
A Network Rail spokesman said: “Our plans for the new bridge are progressing well and we expect to enter the formal planing process shortly.”
A half barrier system was installed at Delny crossing in September, 10 years after Alan Thain and Paul Oliver, both 17, were killed there when a car in which they were passengers was driven into the Inverness to Wick train.
Car driver Richard Fleming, who was 18 at the time of the incident, was given a five-year jail sentence for causing death by dangerous driving.
Local politicians and residents have been calling for action at the level crossing since the crash on February 2, 2007, but they have always wanted to maintain a road link across the railway to the A9 Inverness to Thurso road.
Network Rail has been pursuing the crossing closure since July 2011, when a Rail Accident Investigation Board report into the safety of open level crossings highlighted Delny as having an “enhanced likelihood” of a collision between a car and train.
A report lodged with the scoping plans provides information for council planners to decide if an Environmental Impact Assessment for the construction of the proposed bridge is needed.
It also provides a timeline for the phasing of the bridge works. It says full proposals will be submitted in April, that the stopping up order process will start in June, and that work would start on the bridge in April 2020 before completion in December of that year.
Tom Anderson, chairman of Kilmuir and Logie Easter Community Council, said: “December 2020 would be good. At the last meeting they also said that the bridge is future proofed for developments such as electric railways.
“We would be wanting to express the community view to Highland Council and would be considering it at our next meeting in April.”
Mr Anderson said that the community met with Network Rail in February and heard that the bridge would be built as single carriageway and that the road would curve back round to connect with the single track road linking to the A9.
Ross Estates also wants to lodge plans for 100 new homes at a site near the crossing which would be unlocked by the replacement bridge development.
The scoping plans for the replacement bridge were validate by the council on March 16.