NETWORK Rail have finally compensated a West Highland farmer following a long-running row over liability after a train struck and killed a cow near Plockton last summer.

The incident, which took place almost a year ago on July 27, 2016, saw the animal make its way from the common grazing land at Strathie onto the Inverness to Kyle of Lochalsh line because of poorly maintained fences alongside the track.

After months of correspondence, which saw Network Rail refusing to accept liability, local farmers Duncan and John MacLennan have now received full compensation for the cow – which had been independently valued at £2450.

MSP for Skye, Lochaber and Badenoch, Kate Forbes, petitioned Network Rail on behalf of the MacLennans, and called on the rail organisation to expedite repairs on line-side fencing to avoid similar incidents in future.

Mrs Forbes said: “I cannot describe how delighted I was when, after months of discussion, debate and correspondence, I finally got confirmation from Network Rail that they would compensate Mr MacLennan for the loss of his cow on the railway line near Plockton.

“I refused to give up because the cow had been valued at almost £2500 and any farmer knows the financial impact of losing livestock. It was doubly frustrating because it was due to poor maintenance of fencing along the railway line that had allowed the cow to be on the tracks," she said.

“Common grazings are natural in crofting communities, and so animals can wander far and wide. It’s therefore vital that Network Rail maintains fencing right along the tracks. Too many farmers lose livestock through absolutely no fault of their own and that hits their finances hard at a time when most are already struggling to make ends meet and make a profit.”

Duncan MacLennan commented: “We got Kate Forbes involved because we were getting nowhere, and after that we started dealing directly with Network Rail in London, rather than in Glasgow.

“After extended obstruction by the company, her intervention and related media coverage proved effective in obtaining a pay-out after nine long months.

"However, the bit of fence that our cow got through still hasn't been fixed, so the same thing could happen again, which beggars belief," he added. "Sections on either side of it have been fixed, but as this section is lower down, it seems to have been left out.

"There have been fencers and workers out on the line, so it makes no sense. All of the crofters in the area are keen for it to be sorted, and will continue to fight for that to happen. It was a real battle to win the compensation for the cow that was killed, so we really don't want to be put in that situation again."