The Ben Alder level crossing, south of Dalwhinnie station, was closed unilaterally by Network Rail on 28th July 2021. This level crossing has long been in public use and is recorded as a public right of way. An historic route from Loch Rannoch and along Loch Ericht to Dalwhinnie is shown on the Roy Military Survey (1747-55), which is testament to its importance and long-standing use. In present times, as well as the level crossing remaining useful for long distance travellers, it provides a vital link in Dalwhinnie's signposted local path network. This closure is of great inconvenience to Dalwhinnie's residents and visitors alike. And if this level crossing can be unilaterally closed without consultation, where will be next?
ScotWays heard of the level crossing’s imminent closure shortly before the gates were locked, so wrote to Network Rail reminding them that a route across it is a recorded public right of way. ScotWays consider that the restriction to the level crossing’s use by the general public is an unauthorised obstruction of the public’s right, so strongly object to its closure. We have recommended that Network Rail consult with the local community, affected land-owners and relevant interested parties, such as recreational access organisations and the emergency services.
Network Rail disagrees with ScotWays’ position, instead asserting that the level crossing is private. As a result, ScotWays has been consulting with legal experts. We are also in touch with The Highland Council and Cairngorms National Park access teams, Dalwhinnie Community Council, recreational access bodies and many others to find a way forward, but for now the level crossing remains closed.
Currently, it appears the lack of consultation ahead of the level crossing’s closure may have exacerbated any potential safety issues here. For example, it is not clear that any signage about the closure has been erected by Network Rail other than at the level crossing itself. We consider there may be opportunities to improve both safety and public access at Dalwhinnie, but this will necessitate Network Rail engaging with the local community and other interests. ScotWays asks that, as a first step, Network Rail re-opens this level crossing.
In the meantime, we need your support in our efforts to re-open this level crossing. Ramblers Scotland have created an e-petition urging Network Rail to reconsider, supported by British Horse Society Scotland, Cycling UK in Scotland, Mountaineering Scotland, Scottish Canoe Association and ScotWays, as well as thousands of individual signatories - please sign and add your voice too.