The Aberdeenshire railway line where three people were killed will not open to rail passengers again until October, Transport Secretary Michael Matheson has said.
Investigators are still examining the cause of the Stonehaven rail crash last month, but are finding it “very difficult” to access the site, he added.
Train driver Brett McCullough, 45, conductor Donald Dinnie, 58, and passenger Christopher Stuchbury, 62, died when the 6.38am Aberdeen to Glasgow Queen Street train crashed into a landslide across the tracks near Stonehaven on August 12 following heavy rain.
Maureen Watt, MSP for Aberdeen South and North Kincardine, asked the Transport Secretary when the line would open up again after the “very tragic accident”.
Mr Matheson, who was updating MSPs on Holyrood’s Rural Economy and Connectivity Committee, said the site is under the control of Police Scotland, who are investigating the crash along with British Transport Police.
He said: “The challenge which they have experienced is access to the site. It is a very difficult area for the engineers and for the investigators to access.
“At the present moment significant work is being undertaken in order to provide an access road into the site, which is now at a very advanced stage.
“Once that has been complete and the investigations has been complete, Network Rail and engineers will be in a position where they can start the recovery phase of the process.
“My expectation is that the line will remain closed for passenger use into October, given the scale of the challenge they face moving into the recovery phase once the investigation has been completed.”
The Transport Secretary also said travellers between Glasgow and Edinburgh would continue to face disruption for a “number of weeks” after a canal burst during a storm resulted in damage to the track between Linlithgow and Polmont.
Mr Matheson told the committee: “The Union Canal, which breached and swept away almost a kilometre of the rail bed on the Glasgow Edinburgh line, has been plugged. There is now extensive recovery work being undertaken.
“I expect it will be a number of weeks before that repair work is complete.
“It has not only swept away a kilometre of the actual rail bed, it has also swept away the electrical infrastructure, the overhead lines, the foundations etc have all been swept away. It is very extensive, the level of damage that has been caused.”
Conservative MP Andrew Bowie (West Aberdeenshire and Kincardine) raised the crash at Prime Minister’s Questions in the House of Commons.
He told Prime Minister Boris Johnson: “The interim report is on the desk of the Transport Secretary as we speak and I know the full report will take time to run its course, as is only right.
“But what assurances can (Mr Johnson) give my constituents that the serious questions they have will be answered, any recommendations will be implemented and that the Government will do everything it can to prevent an accident like this from ever happening again?”
Mr Johnson sent his condolences to the bereaved families, adding: “Britain’s railways are among the safest in Europe, partly because we take accidents like this so seriously and therefore we must ensure that we learn the lessons of this tragic event to make sure no such incident reoccurs in the future.”
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