Villagers' frustration as Shepreth level crossing down for 17 minutes
PUBLISHED: 14:32 07 December 2018 | UPDATED: 15:38 10 December 2018
Shepreth level crossing was recorded as being down for 17 minutes on Wednesday – much to the frustration of residents, and motorists travelling through the village.
Residents met a representative from Network Rail at the Meldreth, Shepreth and Foxton Rail User Group meeting on Wednesday evening to discuss the problems with the level crossing near the railway station.
Meeting chair Susan van de Ven said: “We have a few very interested people here from different sectors, including Network Rail and Shepreth parish councillors and people who live in Station Road near the level crossing. We also have people who are very knowledgeable about level crossing barrier down times.
“I don’t think we can solve the problems tonight, but today was a very bad day.
“We want to present this data to Network Rail because surely this isn’t how it was meant to be.”
Rob Mungovan, who lives in Station Road, told the meeting: “I was loading up my car today at around 8.45am, and it was down and the cars were building up.
“The queue was really long – it went back to the junction with Meldreth Road the cars were then backing up to the bridge outside Shepreth Mill and then the cars were backing up into High Street.
“The bit I feel disappointed about is that the gates are run inefficiently. The old gates used to go up and down very quickly and old gates are running efficiently at the other crossing at the end of Meldreth Road.
“When I see the gates down at the end of my street, about 70 metres away, I’ll go the other way because I can drive all the way up Meldreth Road through the other gates, on the same train line.
“It’s presumably stopping you from hitting the same train so it’s the same hazard, but yet the gates at the other end of the village are down for much less time, I don’t understand.
“I would guess when the train is probably in Harston, the gates are coming down in Shepreth.
“It’s causing rail passengers and pedestrians frustration.”
Having ticket machines on Cambridge-bound platforms at Shepreth, as well as at Meldreth and Foxton were also discussed, especially if people may risk jumping the barrier to get across and get a ticket.
Andrew Maison, of Docwra’s Close, has been logging the length of time the gates are down.
He said: “It’s hard to predict how long they will be down, so I wanted to record times.
“Today was dreadful and I hope that is an exception, kids going to Barrington Primary School were late – three trains went through but it must’ve been 12 minutes of down time before the first one came.
“Three and a half minutes is the minimum of the lengths I recorded, a couple on November 25 were over six minutes, and routinely down for five minutes.
“I don’t know how many times an hour you’ve got barrier down time but, if you’ve got six lots of that, it’s down as much as it’s up.
Bode Asabi of Network Rail told the meeting in Meldreth’s Elin Way: “Having full barriers there [as opposed to the half barriers at Meldreth Road] is the right thing to do from Network Rail’s point of view regarding safety, so we do put every effort in.
“Now the system we use is called sectioning, if two trains are in a section we have to wait for the trains to pass.
“Three to five minutes is the expected time. I will find out from the signaller why it was down for 17 minutes – there has to be something wrong.
“Sometimes when trains are late it’s not efficient to put the barrier up and down again.”
Mr Asabi said that barrier controllers may be more cautious if they are in training, but managers will review the logs and hold controllers’ decision-making to account.
Regarding additional ticket machines, Mr Asabi said: “At the time of the last conversation about this there were no plans to extend platform length so it was a ‘no’, that has changed now so I think it is something we should push for.”
A meeting attendee said about the barrier: “We appreciate having the barrier brings a much safer situation, but there are three new problems it has generated.”
The meeting also heard that because of the lengthy barrier down times, traffic blocking up the area is causing hazards, and it was said that someone may “get stuck on the railway line” as a result of the blockage.
The next Meldreth, Shepreth and Foxton Rail User Group meeting will be around March time. For more go to meldrethsheprethfoxtonrail.org.uk.