Walkers and residents face long detours in rural areas

Walkers and residents face long detours in rural areas

Campaigners are urging the Scottish Parliament to enshrine the right for walkers to use railway crossings.

Ramblers Scotland said the right of access over more than 400 ‘private’ crossings is disputed by Network Rail, the publicly owned body responsible for rail infrastructure.

The charity, which has 6,500 members and represents walkers’ interests north of the border, said the railway authorities have been uncooperative over the matter, and it is using the 10th anniversary of the implementation of Scotland’s right to roam legislation to press for a review of the problem.

Convener David Thomson called on Holyrood to resolve the long running confusion over the public’s right to use level crossings on Scotland’s railway lines. He said: “Scotland can rightly celebrate 10 years of world-class access legislation, and there is a widespread acceptance that the right to roam is working well.

“But there is one outstanding issue in the lack of clarity over public rights to cross railway lines, which affects around 70 per cent of Scotland’s 600 level crossings.

“In Network Rail’s view, any member of the public using the crossing is committing criminal trespass. We believe the current Scottish Government consultation on land reform is an ideal opportunity to resolve this issue.

“There are public rights of access across around 150 of Scotland’s level crossings. However the remainder are so called ‘private’ crossings.

“Until 2004, access by non-motorised users over these crossings was tolerated by Railtrack and its predecessors. Since then, despite no legislative change having taken place, Network Rail has insisted that anyone who is not the specified authorised user would be committing criminal trespass by using any such level crossing.

“These crossings are used by walkers, cyclists and horse-riders, with thousands reliant upon these as important routes in some locations. In some cases the crossings pre-date the construction of the railway as they were existing established paths.

“In rural areas the nearest point people can cross could be many miles away and therefore these private crossings have immense importance both to local communities and also to those enjoying outdoor recreation.

He said Ramblers Scotland believed the position taken by Network Rail is based on a misunderstanding of the basis on which access is taken in Scotland, and instead is based on their perception of the England and Wales rights of way legislation. “Network Rail has proved to be very uncooperative in resolving this issue over the past decade,” he said.

“The current Scottish Government consultation on land reform is an opportunity for the Scottish Parliament to resolve this situation by amending the Land Reform (Scotland) Act 2003 to specify that statutory rights of public access apply across all private level crossings where there is a right of access to land on either side of the railway.”

The current Scottish Government consultation on the future of land reform ends today.

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