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Calls for action after years of complaints about access at Perthshire railway station

Portable steps are used to help people get on and off trains at the Dunkeld and Birnam Railway Station.
Portable steps are used to help people get on and off trains at the Dunkeld and Birnam Railway Station.

Transport chiefs have pledged to upgrade a Highland Perthshire railway station after years of complaints.

Passengers say the platform at the Dunkeld and Birnam stop is too low for the trains, making boarding and alighting a constant problem for older and disabled people.

Dunkeld and Birnam Railway Station on Saturday, February 5.

Portable steps are routinely used to help visitors get on and off the station. The Courier understands that at least one disabled person was advised to board her train at Inverness instead of taking her chances in Dunkeld.

Despite several years of problems, no work was carried out while Transport Scotland considered moving the station as part of its multi-billion-pound A9 dualling project.

However locals have been told that this option has now been ruled out.

One pensioner, 79, told The Courier: “There is about a foot of space between the train carriage and the platform, so you can imagine how difficult that can be for a lot of people.

“Transport Scotland had a presentation about its A9 work about 18 months ago, and we were told then that the plans to move the platform would be withdrawn. That means there’s no reason why they can’t go ahead with an upgrade.”

The problem was highlighted by Tory MSP for Mid-Scotland and Fife Murdo Fraser, after he wrote to Transport Minister Michael Matheson and received a reply that he claimed was “simply a classic case of passing the buck.”

WALK THIS WAY: A hike for all seasons at Birnam Hill in Dunkeld

Mr Fraser said: “The ultimate responsibility for taking action to address this problem lies with Transport Scotland.

“They are in charge of the A9 dualling project and the Transport Minister has stated that this work will impact Dunkeld and Birnam rail station. Therefore, the SNP Government is well aware of the access issue and needs to resolve it.”

Conservative councillor Anne Jarvis, who represents the Strathtay ward, added: “I receive complaints about this issue all the time and it’s been going on for years.

“Rail passengers who have difficulties boarding or getting off trains at Dunkeld and Birnam rail station are told that there is a movable step available at the station, but that is not a proper solution.”

She said: “I even know of one instance where a constituent who has a disability was told she should board the train she was planning to travel on up at Inverness instead of Dunkeld, which is ridiculous.”

A Scottish Government spokesman said: “Access at rail stations is reserved to the UK Government. Although we work closely with the Department for Transport to agree priorities, the final decision rests with them.”

He added: “We remain committed to improving access at stations beyond the UK Government programme, and where possible, look to improve accessibility as part of our wider rail investments.

“Therefore, as part of the A9 Dualling Pass of Birnam to Tay Crossing road project, all four dualling options that are currently being considered will also help improve access to the Dunkeld and Birnam rail station.”

He said: “Transport Scotland is currently in discussions with Network Rail regarding accessibility to the station for these four options and how it could be improved and once a preferred route for the road has been identified, accessibility improvements to the station will be considered in more detail.”

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