Trains will not stop at Scotland railway station as maintenance …

[1] has announced that from Sunday 12 November, services on the Far North Line will temporarily not call at [2] station in Caithness.

The train operator has decided to withdraw services because the private owner of the five-mile road which provides the only access to the single-platform station and a neighbouring [3] has not given permission for ScotRail or [4] to use it.

As a result, workers are unable to carry out maintenance work which is necessary for the station, which is nearly 150 years old, to operate safely during the winter.

Vegetation Management on the Far North Line The Far North Line // Credit: Network Rail

Fewer than 300 passengers boarded trains at the station. It is eleven miles (eighteen kilometres) from the nearest village, but walkers, off-road cyclists and railway enthusiasts use it to access the remote location. The withdrawal of the service at the station will further isolate a tiny community, so ScotRail intends to restore services as soon as possible.

Altnabreac is one of eight stations on the Far North Line, which operates on a ‘request to stop' basis. At the other seven, ScotRail has installed new kiosks[5] that enable passengers to request an approaching train to stop at the station by pushing of a button, which transmits a radio message to the driver's cab. However, it was impossible to install this at Altnabreac due to the lack of access.

Scotscalder request stop kiosk Scotscalder request stop kiosk // Credit: Network Rail

The Sutherland and Caithness Railway station originally opened the station on 28 July 1874, and it later became part of the Highland Railway.

David Simpson, ScotRail's Service Delivery Director, said, “It is very disappointing that services will temporarily not call at Altnabreac because we can't access the station safely to perform maintenance and other work during the winter period.

“We know how important services on the Far North Line are to local residents, tourism, and the wider community in areas like Altnabreac where public transport options are limited.

“Withdrawing services is very much a last resort and we would like to reassure the local community that we will be doing everything we can to secure safe access and resume services at Altnabreac as soon as possible.”

Cllr Raymond Bremner, Councillor for Wick and East Caithness and the Leader of Highland Council, said: “It is regrettable that services to Altnabreac are being withdrawn. I've used the station a number of times over the years and it is an important access for one of the most remote areas of Caithness and one that is of historical importance.

“I would hope that this matter can be resolved quickly and speedily so that the communities of this area of Caithness and visitors to the area will once again be able to have unrestricted access to it.”

Ian Budd, Convener of the Friends of the Far North Line, said: “We hope to see this extraordinary situation resolved as soon as possible. The Far North Line provides a wonderful opportunity to travel to beautiful and remote locations, as well as providing an essential service to this part of [6].”


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