Level crossing fears may force rethink for depot on Suffolk/Essex border

Manningtree level crossing. Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

Manningtree level crossing. Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

Proposals to build a new multi-million pound rail depot at Brantham on the Suffolk/Essex border have been jeopardised because it would force too many trains to use the level crossing at Manningtree station, it has emerged.

The planned location of the new Greater Anglia rail workshop at Brantham.

The planned location of the new Greater Anglia rail workshop at Brantham. - Credit: Archant

We revealed last week that the Brantham depot plans were being reviewed because of several issues – but the level crossing is the most difficult to overcome.

There are strict rules on the number of times level crossing gates can close and re-open because of the problem of disrupting traffic.

And the crossing at Manningtree – used by vehicles unable to pass under the very low bridge next to it – is already busy.

The extra trains that would have to pass over the crossing to get to and from the new rail depot planned to be built beside the track at Brantham on the other side of the River Stour would push the number of closures over this threshold.

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There is no easy solution to the problem – increasing the height of the bridge does not appear to be an option and the A137 is busy local link road between north Essex and south Suffolk.

A Greater Anglia spokeswoman said: “In addition to other issues affecting the development of Brantham depot, a potential further complication relates to the impact of additional train movements on the level crossing at Manningtree.

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“We are working with Network Rail to assess the implications and the options for addressing them.”

South Suffolk MP James Cartlidge – whose constituency includes Brantham – called on road and rail bosses to come together to find a solution.

He said: “This is a really important project, the largest inward investment in Babergh’s history were it to go ahead.

“Unfortunately, it is abundantly clear that the project is seriously in jeopardy and that this is because of one key factor – Manningtree level crossing.

“I understand that the increased number of rail movements over the level crossing, resulting from the additional journeys of trains going to and from the proposed depot, would exceed a safety threshold that is strictly enforced and unlikely to be easily resolved.

“Anyone with an interest in this project, particularly local people in Brantham, might be puzzled at this development given that the level crossing has been in existence for many years.

“However, whilst this revelation raises many, many issues for wider consideration, my priority and that of all participants must remain to try and keep the scheme alive so that it can deliver the huge benefits it promises for South Suffolk.

“My priority now is to seek an urgent meeting with Network Rail, Greater Anglia and other stakeholders to see if anything constructive can be done in relation to the level crossing”.

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