Plans to close Meldreth level crossing rejected in long-awaited public inquiry ruling

Meldreth councillors and residents Susan van de Ven and Roger James and Meldbourn resident Geoffrey Grimmet. Picture...

Meldreth councillors and residents Susan van de Ven and Roger James and Meldbourn resident Geoffrey Grimmet. Picture: Becca Mills - Credit: Archant

Unsafe conditions for pedestrians along the main connecting road between Melbourn and Meldreth were the deciding factor in a long-awaited ruling by the Secretary of State for Transport against Network Rail’s plan to close a rural level crossing south of Meldreth Station.

The proposal was one of 25 level crossings included in Network Rail’s ‘Cambridgeshire Level Crossing Reduction Orders’ which would see public access rights closed or amended, and necessitating the rerouting of associated footpaths.

Network Rail’s Meldreth Order rested on the rerouting of a public footpath through a busy industrial area and over the Station Road vehicle bridge.

A public inquiry took place from December 2017 to February 2018, to hear arguments in favour of and against the proposed Order, with Cambridgeshire County Council objecting to 11 of the proposed 25 closures including Meldreth. Nine of those objections have been upheld, including the Meldreth crossing and a Harston crossing, and the outcome has now been published.

Meldreth parish councillor Roger James, county councillor Susan van de Ven and Melbourn resident Geoffrey Grimmett participated in the public inquiry, arguing that the industrial site and the bridge’s narrow footway and lack of safe crossing points at the base on both sides constituted an unacceptable diversion, on safety grounds.

In recent months, serious collision accidents have taken place at the southern side of the bridge, underscoring local concerns.

Councillor Roger James said: “We are glad that the correct decision was made for the community which maintains the safety, health benefits and convenience from the public rights of way in Meldreth and the local area.”

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Councillor Susan van de Ven said: “A great deal of public money was spent on the inquiry, which could have been allocated instead to genuinely meaningful safety improvements. Safe passage over the bridge is one of the top concerns in Meldreth.”

Geoffrey Grimmett said: “The expensive and ill-conceived proposal from National Rail would have deprived us of an amenity and condemned pedestrians to a dangerous bridge crossing of the railway line. Thanks to the diligence of staff at Cambridgeshire County Council, this proposal has been rejected.”

Network Rail will close or modify 16 level crossings as part of the Cambridgeshire Level Crossing Reduction Orders.

These are in the following locations:

Chittering Footpath, CB5 9LR

Nairns, CB6 3LG

Coffue Drove, CB6 1RX

Silt Drove, PE15 0DB

Eastrea Cross Drove, PE7 2HG

Prickwillow 1, CB7 4UP

Prickwillow 2, CB7 4UP

Newmarket Bridge, CB7 4EX

Cross Keys, CB7 4UE

Black Horse Drove, CB6 1EH

Cassells, CB8 0UN

Westley Road, CB8 0UB

Jack O’Tell, CB25 9PW

Fysons, CB25 9PW

Ballast Pit, CB25 9QQ

In addition, while Littleport station private access level crossing is already closed as part of a separate process, the Secretary of State for Transport has granted Network Rail the powers to make alterations to the highway rights at the underbridge at Littleport station.

The Crow did approach Network Rail for comment regarding the rejection of Meldreth and was referred to the statement by John Prest, level crossing manager for Network Rail’s Anglia route, who spoke of the changes to crossings that were approved.

Mr Prest said: “Closing or modifying these crossings will improve safety across Cambridgeshire’s railway network.

“This has been a long process and so I want to thank everyone that got involved from residents, crossing users, local businesses, politicians and the media, as together we will make the railway safer for everyone in Cambridgeshire.”

Similar proposals are being taken forward for Suffolk, Essex, Southend-on-Sea, Thurrock, Hertfordshire, and the London Borough of Havering.

As the project develops, the website will be updated to give further detail of each crossing closure or modification