When Network Rail closed the Ben Alder Level Crossing at Dalwhinnie in 2021, it claimed this was due to safety concerns.  The public continued to use the crossing, simply climbing the locked gates so in March this year Network Rail spent £30,000 installing 1.8m high weldmesh fencing and gates along with new signage. 

When challenged about its action in doubling down on the obstruction of this recorded public right of way, Network Rail asserted that a high number of individuals were misusing the locked level crossing. 

The new fencing does not extend far from the crossing and thus does not have the deterrent effect Network Rail envisaged, people are now walking along the fences to find alternative and less safe ways to cross the railway line. Instead of improving safety, the new gates and fences have incited trespass by further restricting legitimate public access, an unintended consequence perhaps, but entirely foreseeable.  

Ramblers Scotland has just released the results of a Freedom of Information request that shows there have been no accidental deaths of ‘non-motorised users’ at Scotland’s ‘private’ level crossings in the past five years.  Ramblers Scotland also noted that in 2021 British Transport Police stated no one had been charged with trespass for using a private level crossing in Scotland during the past five years. 

Despite its claims, Networks Rail’s actions have not made matters safer at Dalwhinnie.  Instead, they have severed a well-used historic right of way, caused distress both to residents and visitors, and sparked a lot of negative publicity. 

ScotWays strongly disagrees that the new fencing and gates are helping to keep the railway safe and in line with Network Rail’s regulatory and legal obligations.  Along with  Dalwhinnie Community Council, the local estate and other local groups and businesses, and a range of national outdoor recreation bodies, ScotWays is continuing to encourage Network Rail to recognise this public right of way and, as a result, take the necessary action to reopen the Ben Alder level crossing and restore safer crossing for the public. 

You can help us challenge Network Rail by completing our questionnaire if you’ve ever used the crossing. We are especially interested in 20th-century use of the crossing to access routes west of Dalwhinnie as part of long through trips.