Airport rail link nears as train station plans approved

But castle tower plans are delayed because of the coronavirus pandemic.

A rail link at Inverness Airport has moved a step closer after securing Highland Council’s blessing for a station.

A detailed design for a twin platform station at Dalcross is expected to follow shortly.

The council’s south area planning committee chairman Jimmy Gray discussed the proposals this week with council officers under ‘crisis procedures’ during the continuing coronavirus pandemic.

The rail station vision has been mooted for more than a decade.

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A previous proposal from the regional transport agency Hitrans for a £5m rail station received planning permission three years ago. That agreement was about to expire and has now been renewed.

The latest plans include a car park for 150 vehicles, new bus stops and cycle parking.

A spokeswoman for the government agency Transport Scotland said: “The Aberdeen to Inverness rail improvement project is delivering the infrastructure to facilitate a new station at Dalcross, which is being progressed by Network Rail on behalf of Scottish ministers.

“The second platform, which will provide additional passenger and freight capacity, will be funded by the Scottish Government.”

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The Covid-19 crisis has, meanwhile, delayed the council’s planned date of the purchase of the south tower at Inverness Castle.

The local authority was due to complete its purchase of the building on May 1. It has now been postponed until at least the end of the current “lockdown” period.

Work beginning with the erection of hoardings around the castle buildings for the duration of the construction period has also been delayed.

City Provost Helen Carmichael said: “This project is vital to the regeneration of our city centre and the wider tourism economy of the region, and we’re looking forward to pushing ahead with its implementation once the period of lockdown is eased.

“However, our priority just now must be the response to the ongoing Covid-19 emergency and keeping people safe at this time.”

The south tower project features as part of the Inverness and Highland City-Region deal, a joint initiative supported by up to £315m of investment from the UK and Scottish governments, the council, the development agency Highlands and Islands Enterprise and the University of the Highlands and Islands to stimulate economic growth.

The tower is currently owned by the Scottish Courts and Tribunals Service.