The Scottish Government’s restrictions on outdoor activity in response to the Covid-19 pandemic have of course brought most work on the railway to a halt. We feared that this might prohibit the obligatory pre TAWS application European Protected Species re-surveys. However, shortly before the First Minister’s statement of 21st May was released we were informed that it would still be feasible for these surveys to proceed without breaching lockdown rules. There is therefore still a chance that we will be able to stick to the aim of getting the TAWS application submitted this year. Watch this space for further updates
One of the most iconic images of the British Railways era is the “flying sausage” or “hot dog” totem format used for station name signs. There would usually be one on every lamp post on a station platform. When lines and stations were closed many were rescued and are now highly prized (and highly priced) collector’s items.
Early this year, one such sign from Grantown West station came up for auction and was bought for a four figure sum by a supporter of the extension and donated to the Trust in the hope (expectation, please!) that it will eventually be erected at the railway’s new terminus station at Grantown. The donor wants to remain anonymous but we want to thank them for their generous gesture.
This item is maybe a bit incestuous, since it’s the R2G website reporting on a sign which directs people to…. the R2G website!
Towards the end of 2019, Highland Council Convener Bill Lobban suggested that we raise the project’s profile by erecting some signage in the vicinity of Grantown. After kicking around a few design ideas the Trustees settled on a silhouette of one of the railway’s mainstay locomotives (Ivatt Class 2 No. 46512) on the bridge north of the A95 at Gaich. Just in case anyone seeing the sign couldn’t figure out the message, our website address was added. (See image).
Not so much flags in the ground as survey stations in the ground. Over 2 days in December, Ian Stokes has undertaken a detailed topographic survey of the proposed terminus site between Strathspey Drive and the caravan park. The results will support not only the completion of the TAWS application plans and cross sections but also dialogue with CNPA and SEPA in relation to their TAWS pre application comments. Image at bottom right shows Ian with his surveying kit.
As part of our “flags in the ground” project – where we want to show by work on the ground that we mean to get to Grantown – we commissioned replacement of boundary fencing between Craggan and Gaich. Existing fencing was either in very poor condition (west side of the line) or had disappeared altogether (east side). The work was carried out by Dores-based fencing contractor Mike Gibson and is of a superb standard. It demonstrates not only our commitment to getting to Grantown but our aim to be good neighbours with the farming community..
That fencing was long planned; we had originally contacted Mike a year ago. More opportunistically, Scottish Woodlands, who use the railway’s facilities for the staff training and equipment certification needed to let them do work for Network Rail, agreed to fell a couple of trees at Glenbeg as a quid pro quo (Latin for “no charge”, we believe….) and undertook the work on 6th and 7th November. One of these trees was a threat to the structural integrity of the Glenbeg bridge and was beyond the capabilities of our chainsaw-trained volunteers, so many thanks to all at Scottish Woodlands for this contribution to the extension.
Images of both operations on the right and on the homepage.
Environmental resurveys are now almost complete. Unfortunately the need to survey hibernating bats over the winter means that the timeframe for submission of the TAWS application has slipped to Spring 2021
You may well think that this site has been inactive for many months, and you’d be right. We can only apologise.
Preparing to submit the application for a TAWS Order to let us build the railway is a hideously bureaucratic process which makes getting planning permission look simple. 13 of the 14 documents needed for the application are now ready to go but we still need confirmation that the 3 landowners from whom we need to acquire land are prepared to sell or lease us the land involved. And as with all land transactions there is an enormous amount of title checking to do first. Our chair, Linda Coe ( a retired Solicitor) has spent an enormous amount of time on this.
The involvement of Transport Scotland as agents for the realignment of the A95 to accommodate the railway has also complicated matters. They have to give us accurate and up to date plans of the road realignment but as you can imagine this has not been a priority for them while COVID has been distracting all levels of Government, local and national.
Without the TAWS Order there is not much that we can do on the ground other than devegetation, and even that has to be on land we control. Hopefully, and at worst, we can do some of that this Winter once the leaves are off the trees!
Disappointingly, the amended plans of the A95 realignment have still not been completed for Transport Scotland and we are fast running out of time to make the TAWS application with up to date environmental surveys.
The image at right shows what has caused the need to change the road design – a new access for the new Cairn Distillery being built at Craggan which widens the existing road to provide a right turning middle lane.
Over the Winter we’ve managed to do a little bit of devegetation on the land at Grantown that we have acquired from Highland Council.