Bunchrew residents 'trapped' as railway work closes only road out

Barriers at the level crossing
Affected residents said not enough warning was given of the level crossing's closure

Residents of a small community near Inverness say they feel trapped by engineering works that have closed their only road in and out for hours.

The work is being done to a level crossing at Bunchrew on the shores of the Beauly Firth.

Some residents said they only found out about the repairs when the crossing was closed on Monday morning, with limited time slots when it was open.

Network Rail Scotland said the upgrade was "essential" to keep people safe.

Residents said the level crossing was closed to pedestrians and vehicles for much of Monday.

The only other way out of the area would be to take a route of about eight miles involving stretches of forest track and single-track road, with a locked gate along the way.

Residents described the forest track as "deeply rutted" and a challenge even for four-wheel drive vehicles.

They said it was expected the disruption would continue for about a week, and affected people living in Bunchrew and also the Englishton and Kirkton Muir area.

Monday's closure caused delays to people trying to get to work and school.

Bunchrew engineering works
There were delays for drivers trying to get to work

One resident, John Thornton, said he found the crossing closed by barriers and no workers on site.

He said he wondered how emergency vehicles would be able to get across with no-one to move the barriers.

Another, Bill Bryan, said: "Last week, Network Rail informed the residents of Bunchrew, but not most of those living in the Englishton and Kirkton Muir area, that the road would be closed overnight.

"Now that the work has started the road will be closed for almost 24 hours with a handwritten poster near the crossing with 'open times'."

Mr Bryan said the few times it was open only lasted for up to 55 minutes at a time.

He added: "Myself and a number of those affected have spent the morning trying to get through to someone with authority to address what is clearly a farcical situation - but with no success so far."

'Indiana Jones'

Helen Hutchinson said she and a friend had discussed walking through a forest and crossing a burn - in the dark - to get back home from work on Monday night.

She said: "There is no path. It would be like Indiana Jones going through a forest."

Ms Hutchinson said she had received a message from Network Rail Scotland saying she would be able to get back home, but added that she was worried about the rest of the week.

She said there had been confusing information on when the crossing would be open, adding that she had only been told of the closure by a neighbour.

Bunchrew engineering works
A barrier has been erected at the crossing
Bunchrew crossing
The crossing is on the only road in and out of Bunchrew

Fellow resident Alastair Kinghorn said teaching and medical staff were among those caught up in the closure.

He said: "We were a little shocked this happened without any notice.

"They need to be more flexible. The times are far too restricting."

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."

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