Mull Rail could soon become Loch Lomond Rail. Talks are underway with Scottish Enterprise over an exciting proposal to rebuild the railway at Balloch at the southern end of Loch Lomond.
The new line would link Balloch‘s mainline railway station with the steamer pier and the popular Loch Lomond Shores Visitor and Retail Destination..
The future of the railway on Mull has been uncertain since Torsay Castle was put up for sale.
Mull Rail director Nick Dodson said, “This is a really exciting opportunity. The proposed railway fulfils a real transport need and would give the equipment, engines and rolling stock a fresh lease of life.”
“We are shortly to embark on a formal feasibility study with Scottish Enterprise but meetings with them and extensive field work shows that the scheme could be extremely viable. We’ve already held meetings with Scottish Enterprise, Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park, West Dunbartonshire Council and the Loch Lomond Shores complex and the response was very encouraging.”
Loch Lomond & The Trossachs National Park has been identified as one of Scotland’s key tourism destination that will help to drive growth within the wider tourism industry. In collaboration with industry and other public sector organisations, Scottish Enterprise supports the development of these key destinations to ensure they provide the foundation for future, sustainable growth of Scottish tourism. This area recently benefitted from a new £3.5 million ‘’Surprise Yourself” VisitScotland advertising campaign.
Nearly half of the population of Scotland lives within a 90 minute drive of Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park and Loch Lomond Shores and its attractions already bring in over a million visitors each year. A further boost is likely when the historic paddle steamer PS Maid of the Loch, the last paddle steamer to be built in Britain, hopefully returns to operation in 2013 after a 31 year restoration project.
The proposed line initially runs close to the alignment of the line from Balloch Central to Balloch Pier which closed in 1986. It will then continue onto the Loch Lomond Shores Visitor and Retail Destination and the complex’s extensive car parks.
Nick Dodson added, “We realise there is much work still to be done but the response we’ve had from our new partners in the scheme is most encouraging. Once formal agreements have been reached progress could be extremely rapid.”
Allan McQuade, director of business infrastructure at Scottish Enterprise said: “We are currently in discussion with Mull Railway regarding this very exciting opportunity to relocate the railway to Balloch and Loch Lomond Shores. This proposal could help fulfil much sought after transport links between Balloch Village and Loch Lomond Shores as well as serve as a tourist attraction. The project is subject to financial and technical feasibilities which we are now progressing with Mull Railway."
In the meantime Mull Rail will run on five days a week with a reduced service until the start of September. Details can be found on the railway’s website http://www.mullrail.co.uk. Recently Mull Rail was honoured by an award presented by the 10¼” Gauge Railway Society marking its “continuous service to the public since its opening in 1984.”