Rambler groups have lost their battle to save an historic right-of-way route in rural Perthshire.
Campaigners said a footbridge to replace a level crossing near Blackford is “discriminatory” because it could not be accessed by people in wheelchairs.
Proposals for the new bridge emerged after Network Rail asked Perth and Kinross Council to close off the level crossing at Panholes.
Rail chiefs said the site would not be safe for pedestrians when the line has been upgraded and electrified for faster accelerating, quieter trains.
Outdoor groups Ramblers Scotland, Perth and Kinross Outdoor Access Forum and ScotWays objected to the closure, arguing the bridge does not comply with equality legislation.
They claimed it would be safe to keep the right-of-way open, alongside the new bridge.
After a six-month investigation, the Scottish Government has ruled the footpath needs to be closed. Reporter Frances McChlery, who was assigned to lead the inquiry, said given the varied terrain around the area only a “very small” number of disabled people would be adversely affected by the closure of the level crossing.
She said: “The footbridge would be very difficult for most people with mobility issues to use. In my view, it will be so difficult that such people will be likely to avoid its use.
“On the other hand, the footbridge is much safer than the uncontrolled pedestrian level crossing for anybody with sight or hearing impairment. It is probably also safer for any party including persons with learning difficulties who require close supervision.”
Network Rail said it did consider other options for the site. A spokesman said: “The reality of the situation is that the footpaths and land around the crossing have never been accessible to all types of user.
“The replacement option had to be considered against this background.”
He said ramps would be “very long and steep” and “difficult to traverse.” Network Rail said it would be also involve buying “significantly” more land from third parties.
In her written statement, senior access officer for ScotWays Eleisha Fahy, said: “In our view, the wrong process has been used to attempt to divert the right -of-way and core path.
“The new bridge is inadequate as a total replacement for the original route over the level crossing, as it represents a reduction in current accessibility.”