This is a first look at a long-awaited replacement bridge at a Highland level crossing – more than 11 years after two teenagers died there in a horror crash.
Network Rail has lodged plans with 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 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.
Yesterday a Network Rail spokesman said: “Our planning application for the new bridge has now been submitted to the council and we look forward to working with both the local authority and community as we progress our plans.”
A timeline submitted with the national rail operator’s scoping application last month states that the stopping up order process for the existing road will start in June, with work expected to start on the new bridge in April 2020 before completion in December of that year.
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.
A full planning application has been submitted for the new bridge but this is currently with planning officials for validation, prior to it appearing to the public.