Claims made that Network Rail’s consultation over the Gipsy Lane crossing in Needham Market was inadequate
A decision on whether to build an underpass at a dangerous rail crossing is still to be made – amid claims Network Rail failed to carry out a thorough consultation.
Network Rail wants to close the Gipsy Lane crossing in Needham Market after a 82-year-old woman died there in 2011.
But the initial proposal, to build a bridge over the tracks, was met by fierce community opposition. The group Suffolk Coalition of Disabled People, (SCDP) voiced concerns about access.
Since then Network Rail has been evaluating another option – an underpass.
The town’s MP, David Ruffley, said residents were “extremely disappointed” when the rail body cancelled a recent meeting with Suffolk County Council.
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The authority is responsible for rights of way and would have the final say on when the crossing closes.
Richard Howitt, an East of England MEP, said he had been told that Network Rail had admitted that its initial consultation was inadequate following a meeting with the SCDP.
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A spokesman for Network Rail said: “We are committed to improving safety at level crossings and closing them is the surest way to do that.
“It is our intention to close Gipsy Lane level crossing and replace it with an alternative means of getting across the railway. We cancelled the scheduled meeting on Friday, November 14 to ensure that the disability and inclusion survey was as thorough as possible.
“We have now received that information and are continuing to work with Suffolk County Council to further investigate the possibility of an underpass.”
A petition with more than 1,000 names was handed to Network Rail in October calling for the underpass to be built. Mr Ruffley said the underpass option was the only acceptable solution.
“My constituents and I were extremely disappointed to learn that Network Rail cancelled their meeting with Suffolk County Council,” he said.
“I am informed by Hannah Briggs, the Network Rail manager, that this was to allow the completion of an extremely thorough feasibility report, examining the prospect of an underpass at Gipsy Lane, including a disability and inclusion survey.”
Mary Evans is assistant cabinet member for roads, transport and planning at the council. She said: “The county council, alongside the local community, feel the current proposal for Gipsy Lane is not suitable; due mainly to the impact this proposal will have on wheelchair users, pushchairs and those with limited mobility.”
A meeting between Network Rail and the council is to be held on December 4.