Highland councillor David Flear describes the crash scene
Three people in a car have been killed following a collision with a train at a level crossing in the Highlands.
The accident happened on Bridge Street, Halkirk, in Caithness, shortly after 1400 BST.
There were no injuries among the 18 passengers and four staff on the train. British Transport Police confirmed all three who died were in the car.
Scotrail said the 1038 BST passenger service from Inverness to Wick was involved.
The level crossing has warning lights, but no barriers.
BTP, Northern Constabulary and the Rail Accident Investigation Branch will launch a joint investigation.
Raymond Bremner, who works close to the scene of the accident, said the crossing had a "reputation for accidents".
Mr Bremner added: "There have been to my knowledge three or four accidents in the past few years."
Highland councillor David Flear, who lives in Halkirk, said the community would be shocked by the accident.
He said: "At the moment the road is blocked.
"The train appeared to be still on the tracks and had stopped around 100 yards from the crossing. This is an unmanned crossing."
He added: "I think the community will be in shock. We are very tight-knit here.
"This is something on our doorstep that affects us all. Three people losing their lives is a tragedy."
Police at the scene of the crash in Halkirk
On its website, train operator Scotrail warned that cancellations and delays to further services on the line should be expected following the accident.
A Network Rail spokesman said: "Our engineers are on the scene to inspect the crossing and assist the police with their investigation.
"At this stage, there is nothing to suggest that the crossing was not functioning correctly at the time of the collision.
"All our level crossings are regularly inspected to check they are appropriate to the level of road and rail traffic in the area and we are confident the correct crossing is in place at Halkirk."
Sarah Jappy, 32, was seriously injured when her car was involved in a collision with a train at the same crossing in October 2002.
She was pregnant at the time and her baby survived the crash.
Ms Jappy is pursuing action against Network Rail at the Court of Session and the final hearing is set for next year.
The 1038 Inverness-Wick service was involved in a collision with a refuse collection lorry at a level crossing near Brora in August this year. No-one was seriously injured.
While in February 2007, two passengers in a car were killed at a level crossing at Delny, near Invergordon, in Easter Ross.
Car driver Richard Fleming later admitted causing the deaths of Paul Oliver and Alan Thain, both 17, by driving dangerously.