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The Friends of the Far North Line
Cairdean Na Loine Tuath
the campaign group for rail north of Inverness - lobbying for improved services for the local user, tourist and freight operator

Rail Station Now on Track to Re-open

Efforts to get a Ross-shire property hotspot back on track with a re-opened rail link took a significant step forward - amidst political wrangling over the timing of the announcement.

Scottish Government Transport Minister Keith Brown has confirmed £96,000 will be chipped in to the design cost of a project to re-open the Conon Bridge rail halt. The fast-growing community has seen a rash of housebuilding in recent years and proved popular with commuters who work in Inverness. A long-running local campaign to get the community back on the rail network culminated last year in a meeting with former Scottish Government Transport Minister, Stewart Stevenson.

His successor in post, Keith Brown, yesterday announced an offer of £96,000 to allow the design stage of the process to be completed. Progress on the project had got bogged down in argument over who bore responsibility for the cost. Estimates of the total cost of re-opening has been put between £700,000 and £1.1million. Mr Brown says the design funding supplements a commitment agreed last September which would see HiTrans, the regional transport partnership, chip in £20,000.

MSP Dave Thompson, who brokered the initial meeting, described it as "excellent news". He said, "Now designs for a re-opened Conon Rail Halt can be completed so they are sitting on the shelf ready to implement when funds are available."

Highland Council will be the lead authority for the scheme and is expected to enter into a contract with Network Rail to carry out the design work.

HiTrans' Frank Roach welcomed the development, stating, "We look forward to working with partners in identfying funding for the construction of the station."

Local campaigner and former Conon Bridge Community Council chairman, Alister Mackinnon, said yesterday he was delighted the SNP had maintained its commitment. He described the design cash as "essential" and said he was very optimistic the scheme would result in re-opening of the halt.

LibDem Holyrood hopeful Alan MacRae, who has also campaigned on the issue, said, "When I first contacted the previous Transport Minister to raise the situation with Conon Station, he replied saying he had never heard of it. It is welcome that we have got the project back on to the Government's radar."

By Hector Mackenzie, Ross-shire Journal
Published: 18 March, 2011