'It's good to know we have been heard' - End of the line for Network Rail's pedestrian gate closure plans at Foxton
PUBLISHED: 08:31 02 March 2017
After months of campaigning, public consultations and meetings, a group fighting to stop the closure of a pedestrian gate at the Foxton level crossing has succeeded after Network Rail dropped the proposals.
The Meldreth, Shepreth and Foxton Rail User group, chaired by Susan van de Ven, has campaigned to halt the Barrington Road gate closure, which she said would have benefitted Network Rail by reducing its overall risk – but would have transferred new risk to pedestrians, cyclists and vehicle drivers.
“On first glance, Network Rail’s proposal many months ago to close the crossing gate appeared to be a mistake,” Susan said.
“Surely whoever was drawing up the multiple level crossing closures programme would come to their senses and realise that this was not a minor rural level crossing but a key component of a complex overall level crossing environment, providing segregated movement away from the busy A10.
“But no, Network Rail was utterly serious about closing this gate and persisted with all the might of an organisation that has unique powers on the railway.”
In the first round of public consultations, two per cent of people were in in favour of the closure, with concerns raised which included people travelling through Foxton on the new cycling path would be required to cross the A10 twice to exit and re-join the path, creating new risk to themselves and to traffic.
Many meetings took place – on site, in London, at Cambs County Council’s Shire Hall office and Foxton Village Hall, with representatives of Foxton Parish Council and the county council Rights of Way team, as Susan and the group explained to Network Rail the perspective of people who use the crossing on a daily basis.
Big tweaks had been made and by the third round of consultations, the proposal was to move the A10 road itself three metres over to the east, where it crosses the railway, in order to make room for a new path over the west side of the level crossing, alongside vehicle traffic.
“This would take years of bureaucracy and an as-yet-unidentified pot of money,” Susan said.
“While the new proposed arrangement might have been acceptable for confident and physically able people, still it put all pedestrians, cyclists, wheelchair and pushchair users inside a vehicle traffic area. Thus risk would be transferred away from the rail operator to everyone using the path and the road.
The campaigners had said the next step would be civil disobedience if necessary, but they have now learned that won’t be necessary.
“We’ve now heard from the Network Rail Route Managing Director that the proposal has been withdrawn,” said Susan.
“It’s good to know that in the end, Network Rail has listened and changed its mind.”
A Network Rail spokeswoman said: “We have worked hard with the community to provide a permanent solution to the pedestrian safety issues and build-up of traffic at the crossing, as part of our Railway Upgrade Plan. The current proposal includes a significant package of work to make the road crossing safer for pedestrians and cyclists.
“Based on the feedback received and designs developed to date there is still significant development and funding needed before we can take any plans forward, and we have therefore removed this crossing from our proposals.”
For more on the rail user group see meldrethsheprethfoxtonrail.org.uk.