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06/10/2016 - Airport railway station plan key to economic and connectivity benefits for Highlands

 

An eagerly-awaited detailed planning application for the first phase of a new railway station at Inverness Airport, Dalcross, has been lodged today (Thursday) by HITRANS, the regional transport partnership for the Highlands and Islands.

Considered a key component in the masterplan to allow the Highlands to grow to the east of Inverness, the railway station will not only serve the regional airport with new Park and Ride facilities and additional parking space but also the neighbouring Inverness Airport Business Park, new housing settlements, such as Tornagrain (5,000 houses) and ease pressure on the busy A 96 Inverness- Aberdeen road.

The application sets out plans for a single platform on the north side of the Inverness – Aberdeen railway line between the Old Airport Access Road and a point to the west of the current Inverness Airport Access Road (the platform extends beneath the Inverness Airport Road). The platform will be approximately 173 metres in length (3 metres in width) and will be able to accommodate 2+4 and 2+5 High Speed Train units. Facilities at the station will include shelters, real time passenger information and ticket purchasing machines.

Included the first phase of development will be car parking for 150 vehicles and Park and Ride facilities between the station and the airport terminal.

The application includes a requirement for the closure of the nearby Dalcross (Petty) Level Crossing – on the instruction of Network Rail - due its proximity to the proposed station.

The design of the station will allow a second phase of development to include twin tracking of this section of the line and a second platform,  which will allow hourly services from Inverness to Aberdeen and half hourly services from Inverness to Elgin as well as more commuter services into Inverness to allow sustainable travel alternatives.

The planning application states the railway station could be used by a number of different users:

·         Passengers travelling to and from Inverness Airport;

·         Commuters previously travelling into Inverness for their whole journey by car on the A96(T) using the Park & Ride facility (to a lesser extent commuters travelling east);

·         Travel to and from places of employment at Inverness Airport or the neighbouring business park;

·         Residents of the Tornagrain housing development can walk or cycle to the station for onward travel to places of work, study or leisure.

The application notes that the new railway station will be an important feature in  plans to upgrade the Inverness to Aberdeen rail service with an investment of £170 million to:-

 

1. Improve the provision of commuting opportunities between Elgin and Inverness and between Inverurie and Aberdeen through the provision of a half hourly frequency and new stations at Kintore (near Inverurie) and Dalcross.

2. Achieve an hourly service pattern between Inverness and Aberdeen; and

3. Reduce overall end to end journey times to around 2 hours.

 

The Park & Ride facility, which will include an initial provision of 50 spaces for rail users, offers a solution which will bypass any congestion and delay on the A96. While directly benefiting commuters travelling into Inverness, it could also have a further benefit for those travelling from Inverness to the airport.

The station will also provide an alternative parking location and reliable service for those travelling both East and West, offering a competitive and realistic alternative to private car travel, contributing to both local and national sustainable policies.

An inevitable consequence of the development of the railway stop at Inverness Airport is the closure of the Dalcross (Petty) Level Crossing. Surveys have demonstrated that the level of existing usage is extremely low, equating to an average of 30 2-way vehicle trips per day and an average of 3 2-way pedestrian trips per day.

A transport assessment carried out for HITRANS states: “When considering the wider economic and transport benefits to the Inner Moray Firth and Highland Region, the new Inverness Airport (Dalcross) Station will bring, it is considered that the closure of Dalcross (Petty) Level Crossing to enable this is acceptable. There will be safety benefits associated with the crossing closure itself and consultation with the various emergency services has indicated that there would be little or no impact on their ability to serve the local area as a consequence.”

 

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