AN INVESTIGATION has been launched after a freight train carrying nuclear material ran a stop signal near to Kingussie on Friday night.

The service was carrying spent fuel from the Dounreay Power Station to the decommissioning site at Sellafield, Cumbria.

It came to a stop after travelling past a red light before being moved to a “position of safety” by concerned officials.

Direct Rail Services (DRS), the company which handles shipments between the two sites on behalf of the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA), said they understand there was no risk of collision due to the error.

However, concerns have been raised as to why a train loaded with radioactive material was allowed to sit there for almost two hours.

An investigation has since been launched into the circumstances of the "highly-disturbing" incident.

DRS has been transporting spent fuel between the two sites for a number of years. The material is taken from Dounreay to Georgemas Junction and loaded on to the train to Carlisle and then onto Sellafield.

Tor Justad, chairperson of the Highlands Against Nuclear Transport group, said: “We’ve been campaigning for these shipments to be stopped and for the material to be kept on site.

“Storing nuclear material is hazardous enough but when it’s when you go to transport it that accidents can happen. And obviously an incident like this is highly-disturbing.

“We know that low-level radiation is emitted from these canisters so to hear that the train was sitting at Kingussie for hours is concerning.

“We are told these trains are protected but they’ve never really told us anything in detail about their security.

“We’re not happy about these trains, but if it has to happen then we want it to be as safe as possible.”

A spokesperson for Direct Rail Services said: “On Friday evening, a Direct Rail Services train, carrying spent fuel from Georgemas Junction to Carlisle, passed a ‘stop signal’ at low speed then quickly came to a halt a few metres past the signal.

“It stopped well within the safety area provided for incidents of this nature.

“The train was immediately moved to a position of safety allowing the rail network to continue operating normally and our understanding is that there was no risk of collision.

“Following standard procedure checks the service was able to continue to Carlisle later that evening.

“A formal investigation is underway.”

A spokesperson for Network Rail confirmed: “The 2pm Georgemas to Carlisle freight train service was stopped at Kingussie at 9.35pm after passing a signal by a locomotive length. It left at 11.26pm and proceeded south.”

According to a 2013 inventory report from the NDA, the UK has to manage 4.5 million cubic metres (4.9m tonnes) of radioactive nuclear waste – enough to fill Wembley Stadium four times over.

Plans to ship waste from Dounreay to Cumbria were announced in 2011, as a cheaper alternative to keeping and treating the material in Caithness.

The controversial shipments of the material – including fuel containing highly enriched uranium and plutonium – to Sellafield in Cumbria are set end next year.

Activists often raise concerns about the transport of nuclear material, whether by rail, road or sea.

Nuclear weapons are transported by road in 20-vehicle convoys up to eight times a year between the nuclear factories at Aldermaston and Burghfield in Berkshire and the Royal Naval Armaments Depot at Coulport, northwest of Glasgow.

There has also been opposition to loading the material onto boats and shipping it around the north-west coast, especially given the loss of Coastguard’s Stornoway-based emergency tug.

Dounreay is being demolished and cleaned up in a £2.32billion job expected to last up until 2033.