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Highlands and Islands Greens
Highlands and Islands Greens

Greens Call for Rail Halt at Beechwood, and for Inverness-Beechwood Rail Shuttle

Friday, October 29th, 2010

The Scottish Green Party has written to Mr Iain Coucher, chief executive of Network Rail, making an irresistible case for a railway station at Beechwood campus.  Our letter states:

  • Beechwood campus is expected to support 6,000 jobs by 2030.
  • The existing Inverness-Perth rail line runs directly through the campus site.
  • Travel to Inverness town centre would be much faster and potentially cheaper by rail than by car or bus.
  • Siting a Park and Ride car park by the campus railway station would further increase rail travellers.
  • Rail transport would reduce both air pollution for residents and commuters, and Scotland’s greenhouse gas emissions; it is essential to minimising the environmental impact of the development.

The letter reads:

Mr Iain Coucher
Chief Executive
Network Rail
King’s Place
90 York Way
London
N1 9AG

Dear Mr Coucher

RAIL STATION AND ASSOCIATED SHUTTLE AT BEECHWOOD CAMPUS, INVERNESS

I am writing on behalf of my Party to request that you initiate arrangements to construct a small rail station along the rail line that runs through Highlands and Islands Enterprise’s Beechwood Campus site, which lies about two miles East of Inverness, and to provide an associated rail shuttle-service between the site and Inverness rail station.

On 25 May 2010, HIE were granted planning permission to develop this site (see http://www.hie.co.uk/Default.aspx.LocID-0finewmf3.RefLocID-0fihiesv500g.Lang-EN.htm).  We understand that, although road access to the site was an important consideration for The Highland Council (the local planning authority), provision for a rail station was not made a condition of the award, which was disappointing – although we gather that, for HIE at least, it remains an aspiration.

Given that the existing Inverness-Perth rail line runs directly through the campus site, we believe the case for constructing a station, and for introducing a shuttle (light rail?) service into Inverness, is overwhelming:

  • Ease of travel: for all those travelling to and from the centre of Inverness to the campus, including students and business-park employees, a rail facility offering rapid transit (a few minutes at most) would be both convenient and attractive, and indeed could therefore help boost much-needed trade in the town centre.  The alternatives – travel by bus or car to and from town centre – could be significantly slower and more expensive.
  • Park and Ride: siting one of The Highland Council’s proposed ‘Park and Ride’ car parks at the station would provide users with (as mentioned above) a quick journey into town, compared to an inevitably much slower bus service, and as a consequence could generate considerable take-up.
  • Environmental: given the paramount need, as is recognised at national and local Government level and across society generally, to minimise the external environmental impact of any development, the provision of a station and associated shuttle on the campus is essential.  The alternative, that a potentially ‘rail friendly’ site – particularly one as prestigious as this – would only be accessible by road, is wholly unacceptable.

We understand that the site is not flat (from Beechwood, the line climbs towards the Culloden Muir viaduct), and – because of this incline – that it may not be practicable for southbound trains to stop on the site.  We therefore propose that the station be constructed in a new cutting, perhaps separate from the main line, and that a dedicated ‘Inverness-Beechwood’ rail shuttle be instituted, which would use existing lines except for the turn-off into the new Beechwood cutting.

You will want to make your own assessments of the demand for such a service, though we note from HIE’s press release – at the above-mentioned website – that “A 2009 study by consultants Congentsi estimates Inverness Campus could attract investment of around £300 million, generating £38 million for the Highlands and Islands economy and supporting 6,000 jobs by 2030.  And since the granting of planning permission in May, both Inverness College and the Scottish Agricultural College have announced their intentions to transfer to the Beechwood site.

I would therefore much appreciate your consideration of our proposal. I look forward to hearing from you.

I am copying this letter to Sandy Brady (acting Chief Exec.,HIE), Cllr. Jimmy Gray (Highland Council), Alistair Dodds (Chief Exec., Highland Council), and to Patrick Harvie MSP.