Axe looms for Highland station with just 76 passengers year

Closing Kildonan station, which has the third lowest number of passengers in Scotland, could shave four minutes off journey times on the Inverness to Thurso/Wick route. Picture: Sandy Colley
Closing Kildonan station, which has the third lowest number of passengers in Scotland, could shave four minutes off journey times on the Inverness to Thurso/Wick route. Picture: Sandy Colley
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A remote Highland railway station could be the first to be closed in Scotland for more than 30 years under plans to speed up journeys on the line.

Kildonan, near Helmsdale in Sutherland, has just 76 passengers a year – around one every five days – though it is served by seven trains a day.

Shutting it could save up to four minutes from trips on the Inverness to Thurso/Wick route.

However, the plans come months after ministers rejected a move to close Breich station in West Lothian, which has even fewer passengers.

Supporters of the Far North Line said they were likely to oppose the plan to close the 144-year-old station, which has the third lowest number of passengers in Scotland. Balloch Pier on Loch Lomond was the last to close, in 1986.

The Highlands and Islands Transport Partnership co-ordinating body (Hitrans) said there would be an opportunity to close Kildonan when barriers are installed at an adjacent open level crossing, where trains currently have to stop to ensure the road is clear.

The station is a “request” stop, so trains would still have to slow down in case there were passengers waiting to board.

Partnership manager Frank Roach said: “Over 60,000 passengers a year use stations to the north of Kildonan, including Wick and Thurso.

“Caithness residents have one of the slowest journeys by rail to their regional centre, Inverness, which is increasingly an important centre for education, training and health.

“These passengers could have the journey time reduced through this measure.

“It is a low-cost non-engineering solution to a long-standing problem.

“Local residents within in the catchment are few, and trains will still stop at Kinbrace, eight miles away, and Helmsdale, 9.5 miles away.”

Roach said alternative travel could be provided by taxi or community bus.

The Friends of the Far North Line group said plans to speed up trains through request stops, as revealed by The Scotsman last week, would save time instead.

Convener Ian Budd said: “The installation of an electronic system for passengers to communicate a request directly to the train means that, if no such request is received, a train will be able to pass through Kildonan considerably faster in future once the level crossing there has been upgraded as planned.”