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ScotRail withdraws stops at Altnabreac following station access challenges

By David G Scott

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ScotRail is advising customers that from Sunday (November 12) services on the Far North Line will temporarily not call at Altnabreac station in Caithness.

The train operator has made the decision to withdraw services as it is unable to get access to the station and a neighbouring level-crossing. In the last year fewer than 300 passengers joined services from the station.

The isolated station can only be accessed by a small road five miles long and without being granted access Network Rail and ScotRail staff are unable to carry out essential maintenance needed for the safe operation of the station through winter.

A ScotRail train pulls away from the platform at Altnabreac on the Far North Line.
A ScotRail train pulls away from the platform at Altnabreac on the Far North Line.

ScotRail’s intention is to return to services as quickly as possible.

Altnabreac, along with eight other stations on the Far North Line, currently operates on a ‘request to stop’ basis. The other seven recently saw the installation of new kiosks that allow passengers to request an approaching train to stop at the station with just the push of a button using a radio system to send a message to the driver’s cab – however this, along with critical maintenance, has not been possible at Altnabreac due to the inability to safely access the station.

David Simpson, ScotRail’s service delivery director, said: “It is very disappointing that services will temporarily not call at Altnabreac because we can’t access the station safely to perform maintenance and other work during the winter period.

“We know how important services on the Far North Line are to local residents, tourism, and the wider community in areas like Altnabreac where public transport options are limited.

“Withdrawing services is very much a last resort and we would like to reassure the local community that we will be doing everything we can to secure safe access and resume services at Altnabreac as soon as possible.”

Cllr Raymond Bremner, councillor for Wick and East Caithness and the leader of Highland Council said: "It is regrettable that services to Altnabreac are being withdrawn. I've used the station a number of times over the years and it is an important access for one of the most remote areas of Caithness and one that is of historical importance.

“I would hope that this matter can be resolved quickly and speedily so that the communities of this area of Caithness and visitors to the area will once again be able to have unrestricted access to it."

Ian Budd, convener of the Friends of the Far North Line said: “We hope to see this extraordinary situation resolved as soon as possible. The Far North Line provides a wonderful opportunity to travel to beautiful and remote locations, as well as providing an essential service to this part of Scotland.”

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