RAIL services are back on track in a Highland village – more than half a century after after its original station closed.
The new £600,000 Conon Bridge Station in Ross-shire will help alleviate anticipated congestion on the A9 when the major revamp of the Kessock Bridge gets underway next week.
But it is also hoped the station will become popular all-year round by commuters.
Transport Minister Keith Brown, who officially opened the new station, said: ““Improving access to rail services is an important factor in encouraging people to use the train and I am delighted to be here today to launch a brand new station for the people of Conon Bridge.
“Instead of travelling to Dingwall, locals can now access trains into Inverness and beyond right here on their doorstep.
“This will be particularly beneficial during the major upgrade to the Kessock Bridge in coming months and I hope people will take advantage of this as an alternative to driving into Inverness during these works.”
Built by Network Rail, the station includes a new 15 metre platform, a waiting shelter, passenger information systems and cycle racks and lockers.
The old station closed in 1960.
Highland Council has also delivered a new car park and enhanced road access and street lighting at the station.
The station, located between Muir of Ord and Dingwall on the Far North and Kyle line, will be operated by ScotRail.
David Simpson, Network Rail route managing director for Scotland, added: “The delivery of the new station on-time, within budget and to such a tight timescale shows what can be achieved when organisations work together to deliver for passengers.
“The reopening of Conon Bridge has been a real team effort by the rail industry and local and central government, which will bring significant benefits for the people of Conon Bridge.”
Steve Montgomery, managing director of ScotRail said: “This is a landmark day for the people of Conon Bridge who are once again, linked to the Scottish rail network.
“Having a station will make a big difference for local people and visitors alike, by providing a real alternative to the car. The more we can encourage people to travel by train the better it is for the environment.”
Highland Council leader and local councillor Drew Hendry said: “This is great news not just for the local community but the benefits will spread wider to the whole Highlands.
“Recently we have seen a big increase in passengers commuting by rail into Inverness so the re-opening of Conon Station will provide even more opportunities for people to make the switch from car to rail travel.”
The new facility has been delivered in just four months, with main construction work beginning on site in November 2012.
It will be served by 13 trains per day to Inverness Monday to Saturday and 11 northbound services Monday to Thursday, with an additional late-night service on Friday and Saturday.
The opening comes just ahead of the Kessock Bridge refurbishment, which will cause disruption when works begin on Monday. This will continue until June and then return again to be completed between February and June next year.
Transport Scotland is investing £18m to upgrade Kessock Bridge, bringing it in line with modern traffic standard requirements.