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
Ian Stanworth has resigned as a Director and Trustee due to other commitments. not least those of the “day job” although he also does a power of work elsewhere on the railway. The Board is grateful for his contributions to the project since he was appointed a couple of years ago and looks forward to continuing to benefit from his expertise as an advisor.
Also standing down (from her role as advisor) is Joyce Lyle, who has passed book-keeping/accounting responsibilities on to Director/Trustee Tim Keats. Joyce has been a stalwart of the Trust since it was set up, carrying out so much work first as a Trustee/Director then as an advisor, as well as contributing to the funding of the project. Many thanks Joyce for everything that you have done to help bring the railway back to Grantown.
Responses to the pre application consultations have now all been received and reviewed. We are confident that most if not all concerns raised by consultees can be addressed by the provision of further data – including additional plans and cross sections already being prepared at the behest of the Scottish Government’s TAWS Unit. Disappointingly, some natural heritage resurveys cannot be postponed and will have to be done before the formal TAWS Order application can be submitted. These resurveys can only be done in the Spring, meaning that there is likely to be a delay of 6+ months before the application goes in. Meantime we can only thank our supporters for their forbearance…. and their continuing financial support.
Two community “drop in” consultation sessions are to be held at the end of August in the old library room of Grantown’s YMCA Community Centre, as part of the TAWS Order pre application process. Plans and other information about the extension will be on display, Trustees will be on hand to answer questions, and members of the public attending will be encouraged to complete feedback forms in which they can make any comments on or raise any concerns about the railway’s plans. Dates/times are Friday 30th August 3pm – 8 pm and Saturday 31sr August 2pm – 5 pm.
The start button has been pushed on the process of getting Government approval for the extension to Grantown. Before the formal application for a Transport and Works (Scotland) Order is submitted, a pre application consultation process with the Scottish Government and various bodies such as SNH and the National Park has to be undertaken and this is now under way. A community consultation event is to be held later in the year as part of this pre application process.
Further clearance and burning of vegetation between Gaich and Grantown was undertaken on two days in March by a number of the railway’s volunteers. Thanks to – Ben Tyrell, Neil MacQueen, Jim Clark, Angus MacPhail, Ian Masson, Iain Wood, Mike Tough, Roddy MacPhee, Ian Stanworth and John Wood for their help.