Severe Flooding Closes the West Highland Lines

This unusual view of a 156 DMU ‘parked in a Crianlarich siding is assumed to be a consequence of the severe flood damage to the line on 4th August 2019 when the area was the victim of severe thunderstorms. Parts of the track bed were washed away between Ardlui and Crianlarich and between Tyndrum Lower and Dalmally on the Oban line. In all five sites were affected. The lines were fully restored and services resumed on Monday 19th August. In the interim period ScotRail operated a service between Crianlarich and Mallaig and connecting bus services for passengers travelling from Glasgow to Oban and FortWilliam.

All this created a huge logistics challenge for the Network Rail engineers. The line travels through areas which are extremely difficult to access and this makes it very challenging to implement quick repairs. We congratulate Network Rail on their successful restoration work.

All this is a reminder that the West Highland Lines travel through fantastic scenery, much of it surrounded by mountains which were only released from their icy cover 10,000 years ago. The downside is that road and rail infrastructure in the West Highlands is vulnerable to the unstable surface geology which result in frequent landslips covering or undermining roads and rails. This vulnerability is made worse by the historic lack of investment, until recent times, in the line’s infrastructure which dates back to its construction in the 19th century. In recent years Network Rail have been engaged in a programme of improving drainage, building new culverts, stabilising track beds, geo-netting rock cuttings and refurbishment of the many lattice steel viaducts. Significant capital expenditure has, and will continue to be incurred. Much of this goes unnoticed by the rail users.