Two Bridges to Farr (and Evanton etc)
The news that both the Kessock and the Cromarty bridges need major resurfacing work has caused anxiety to very many road users but presents an opportunity for the Far North Line. Two questions from Rob Gibson MSP on St Andrew's Day were answered by
Stewart Stevenson: A scheme to resurface the Kessock Bridge is currently being progressed, with a proposed start date for the works in the spring of 2011 at the earliest. However, the timing of the works is subject to the availability of funding and the outcome of local consultation.
Stewart Stevenson: Design work is progressing on a scheme for a major refurbishment of the Cromarty Bridge. The scheme is likely to include extensive repairs to structural defects, upgrading of concrete surfaces, renewing the bridge deck waterproofing system, complete resurfacing of the bridge, replacing the bridge deck expansion joints and replacing the bridge parapets.
The programme for this essential work has still to be determined but it is anticipated that a three month investigative trial contract over a representative section of the bridge will be undertaken in 2010. This will assist in determining the scope of the works. The start date of this contract has yet to be determined and will be subject to the availability of funding and the outcome of local consultation.
The working hypothesis is that the Kessock bridge will be repaired over six months in the summer of 2011 and the Cromarty bridge the following year and only one side of each bridge will be open at a time. In view of the heavy peak time traffic, this will cause major disruption.
The UK Government and the rail businesses have shown at Workington that an emergency station can be built within a week. This "where there is a will there is a way" attitude could usefully be applied on the FNL.
Conon Bridge station is awaiting capital funding from Highland Council.
The Lentran to Clunes passing loop would allow more trains to operate between Inverness and Dingwall including an 8 am commuter train north from Inverness. FoFNL made the case for this in the last issue. See "Strengthening the Far North Line" which is also on the website. More frequent trains could then be provided and there is land at Muir of Ord and at Dingwall stations which could provide extra car parking.
An Evanton Parkway station might be a possibility to ease the Cromarty Bridge disruption if a suitable site with parking and access could be found. Parking at Alness is now rather limited and Invergordon sadly lacks a footbridge, and there has been an aspiration for a station for Evanton following the Invernet frequency improvements.
FoFNL offers these ideas as part of the local consultations. The attractive fares on the railway make it a much cheaper option than driving and parking. The railway would only provide an alternative for a proportion of present road users, but if we are to be serious about sustainable living and sustainable transport, it is surely the way forward.