AN open level crossing on the Fort William to Mallaig railway line is to get safety barriers, Network Rail has confirmed.
The crossing at Corpach is one of four in the Highlands which will be upgraded first as part of a £4 million scheme.
It follows the successful completion of a trial of the new short barriers system in Ardrossan, Ayrshire, last week.
There are 23 open level crossings (AOCL) in Scotland, the majority of them in the Highlands, and the Network Rail plan has been warmly welcomed as “a major step forward” by Skye, Lochaber and Badenoch MSP Dave Thompson, who has led a high profile campaign for the increased safety measures to be implemented.
The West Highland Line crossing at Corpach, which provides the only access for vehicles to and from the busy Caledonian Canal Basin area, and three on the Far North Line - Brora, Kirkton and Dalchalm - have been chosen on technical and operational grounds.
It is understood there have been a number of “near-miss” incidents at Corpach in recent years. In October 2009 the Lochaber News highlighted one involving local pensioner Hugh Muir which eventually led to Network Rail altering the position of warning lights.
The improvement programme is due for completion by 2014 and includes installation of a conventional, half-length barrier at Halkirk in Caithness which was the scene of a crash between a car and a train that killed three elderly members of the same family in September 2009.
The new barriers can be installed for about £100,000 a crossing, compared to an average of more than £500,000 under the old system.
Announcing the upgrade project this week, David Simpson, Network Rail route managing director for Scotland, said: “The trial of this new system on single line railway at Ardrossan has been a fantastic success. We have developed and successfully tested an affordable, innovative system that will improve the safety of open level crossings.
“I welcome the support of the Scottish Government and Mr Thompson in the development and rollout of this new system.”
Mr Thompson said: “I was delighted to see the successful completion of the new AOCL+B level crossing system at Ardrossan. I welcome the announcement that four Highland crossing will now be upgraded forthwith.
“These four barrier implementations on open highland crossing are the initial first tranche of a roll-out to all the open crossings that remain in the Highlands.
“This is a major step forward in road and rail safety.”