MORE than 100 people attended a community drop-in about the new Forres train station.
The meeting at Forres House Community Centre on Thursday, February 18 from 3-7pm featured improvements planned for east of the Findhorn viaduct to Bogton nursery as part of a £170 million investment by the Scottish Government to improve the railway between Aberdeen and Inverness.
Network Rail and contractor BAM Nuttall staff were on hand to answer queries, talk about display boards and encourage the public to make suggestions.
“The plans and pictures were very well received,” said communications manager Stacey Lynch. “Our works start in March, with the main site compound being installed on the land of the old timber yard off Waterford Circle. Preparatory works for the new road, new platforms and other ground works will continue from there.
“We are targeting a full completion date of Winter 2017.”
Plans include re-signalling of the entire Inverness to Aberdeen track, additional peak services between Inverness and Elgin, a new station link to Inverness Airport at Dalcross, and an extended platform at Elgin to accommodate longer carriages.
It is hoped that the improvements will cut the current travel time between the cities - 108 miles - of around 2.5 hours, while encouraging more commuters to ditch their cars in favour of rail travel.
A new two-platform station at Forres on straight alignment will be built to the north of the current station, running straight along behind the Greshop Industrial Estate on the old route.
Removal of the existing station and signal box will also be part of the project.
A road bridge will cross the new section of track on the A96 with ramps, a foot and cycle path connecting it to the new two-platform station.
Provisional plans for a car park feature 37 spaces including seven for blue badge holders, seven oversized spaces and three charges for electric cars.
Attendees left a number of suggestions for improved plans.
“Please reconsider the access onto the A96 to the west of the new railway station,” said one. “The new road looks to be a dangerous junctions, a roundabout would be better.”
“Pave from the Lidl roundabout westbound by the A96 to the station,” said another. “Signalise the A96 crossing which is particularly important for wheelchair users.
“The new rolling stock should be fully wheelchair accessible and bus replacement services should also.”
“I would like to see better pedestrian and cycle access to the station without having to brave the A96,” said one. “Bus services should serve the station, joining up with the train timetable.”
“The danger spot at the top of Market Street will be made even worse unless a roundabout is installed there,” suggested another attendee. “We also need more car parking spaces.”
Another asked that a public, coin-operated telephone box be installed with information including local taxi firms’ contact details.
“Consideration should be given to covering the steps and deck of the new footbridge between the platforms,” said someone else and another asked: “What is to happen to the signal box?”
Another visitor confirmed the plans for the new station and road alignment were clearly explained at the drop-in.
“I think it will be a great advantage to Forres when the new station is competed,” he said.
“The Network Rail representatives were first class,” said another local. “Very patient and well-informed.
“My suggestion is a 3/4 vehicle lay-by on the A96 near to the footpath to the station for a drop off point as many cars will do that anyway!”
Any additional concerns should be emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org or Twitter @NetworkRailA2I.
Alternatively, a 24-Hour national helpline is available on 03457 11 41 41.