Deer leaps to offer safe passage for animal on Highland rail line

NETWORK Rail has completed the installation of 15 deer leaps along the railway boundary on the line between Kinbrace and Forsinard in the Highlands.

Deer leeps were first trialled on the line back in 2019, with them offering all deer – in particular calves and juveniles – an escape route from trains.

The leaps came alongside work to renew more than five miles of fencing in the area, as part of a £200,000 investment in the area to renew and upgrade the railway boundary.

Ground levels are changed on both sides of the fence to assist a quick, safe access and exit for deer crossing the railway.

They are placed in areas where it is obvious deer regularly congregate and cross the railway, with the locations being identified through the gamekeeper on the Auchentoul Estate which borders the railway.

Once the deer learn the easier crossing routes, it is hoped that they will use them by preference thereby reducing the number of deer struck by trains on the Scottish rail network – which accounts for one fifth of animals hit.

Jonathan Callis, senior asset engineer at Network Rail, commented, “Wild deer are an integral part of Scotland’s wildlife and ecology and occur the length and breadth of our network.

“Solutions like this allow us to reduce the risk of collisions at ‘problem locations’ where deer are known to cross our land and positively contributes overall to deer welfare.

“It will not solve the problem completely as wild deer can attempt to cross the railway anywhere and at any time, but at these hotspots, the leaps should make for a quicker, easier and safer crossing for the deer.

“Installation of these leaps promotes deer welfare across the estate, while maintaining a safe and secure railway for the public.”

Duncan Bentley, gamekeeper of the Achentoul Estate, added, “Deer Management is an essential part of the eco system in the area and these measures will safeguard the deer and public safety on the railway line whilst ensuring deer will still be able to move about freely and reduce the number of potential accidents to them.

“Everyone at Achentoul Estate is grateful for the cooperation and understanding shown by Network Rail in installing deer leaps on the Estate.”