Collapse of the River Ness Rail Bridge
I was General Manager of British Rail's ScotRail Region from September, 1987 until January, 1990. On 6th February, 1989 I travelled to Inverness for a meeting with Highland Regional Council the following day. There had been a huge amount of rain in the north and I was told that the River Ness was in full spate. In the evening I went down to the river and it was lapping the embankments and running at a fearsome rate. The Ness has the steepest fall of any river in the country, and it was certainly evident.
The following morning I was having breakfast in the hotel (porridge and kippers of course!) when an ashen-faced Ronnie Munro, the Station Manager, came in to tell us that the railway bridge had been washed away. When I went down to look, the rails were suspended above the raging river, with no sign of the bridge spans.
There was obviously great concern locally that the bridge would not be replaced. I had a hectic morning of telephone calls with British Railways Board Headquarters and many others, and was able to get a verbal agreement that the bridge would be replaced. I therefore arranged a press conference that afternoon to make this announcement. This was to ensure that there were no second thoughts at Board HQ, in the Other Provincial Services business sector, or in the Department of Transport!
Then followed all of the decisions, debates and arguments about what we should do about train services to the Far North and Kyle of Lochalsh, what the design of the bridge should be, and how to deal with a claim for damages from the Harbour Board owing to the debris from the bridge blocking the harbour!
It was agreed to operate a shuttle service with a bus connection from Inverness. There was a diesel multiple unit trapped north of the bridge, but more units had to be transported by road to provide the temporary fleet. A temporary maintenance depot was created at Muir of Ord using a converted civil engineering shed.
It was eventually agreed to rebuild the bridge on a like for like basis, rather than a modern (and quicker) modern steel structure. Rail services were restored in 1990.
Restoration Of The Ness Viaduct
There will be a talk in Inverness on Wednesday, 19th November to be given by Adrian Boal who was Resident Engineer for the viaduct's rebuilding 25 years ago. FoFNL members are being invited to attend by the hosts, Inverness Field Club. The venue is Millburn Academy at 19.30.