Needham Market: Concern over disabled access to fatal rail crossing

Network Rail wants to close the rail crossing Gypsy Lane in Needham Market but its plans have come u

Network Rail wants to close the rail crossing Gypsy Lane in Needham Market but its plans have come underfire - Credit: Archant

A disabled charity has criticised proposals to build a footbridge over a railway line as it will create “far-reaching” problems for the community.

The Suffolk Coalition of Disabled People has called on Network Rail to rethink proposals to erect a footbridge at Gypsy Lane, Needham Market.

Proposals to create a new crossing were created after an 82-year-old woman died on the rail line in 2011.

But the charity claims disabled people will struggle to get across as the footbridge would feature more than 70 steps.

Network Rail said it is working closely with the planning authority, Mid Suffolk District Council, over the plans.

Bonnie Collins, disability development officer for the charity, said: “It is not only disabled people who would have a problem but mothers with young children and to be honest older people may struggle to climb these steps.

“It would affect a cross-section of the community – it would be far-reaching.

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“The footbridge is the completely wrong thing to go with. I think the tunnel option should be chosen, that’s what Suffolk County Council recommended.”

Another option Network Rail has considered is whether to build an underpass crossing beneath the rail line for pedestrians.

The county council said it is “fully committed” to persuading the rail body to reassess the underpass option.

A council spokesman said: “Responsibility for installing a rail crossing sits with Network Rail.

“Suffolk County Council wants to retain an accessible railway crossing in the vicinity of the two existing footpath crossings and is fully committed to persuading Network Rail to reassess the underpass options.

“We will be meeting Network Rail later this month, prior to any final decision being taken.”

A Network Rail spokeswoman said: “We remain committed to closing Gypsy Lane level crossing in Needham Market permanently and provide an alternative route over the railway.

“We recognise that there has been much debate locally about the footbridge, so we continue to work closely with the local planning authority.

“Furthermore, we plan to announce the work programme later in the spring. Again, we would like to thank the local community for their patience and understanding on this issue.”

A group of residents voiced their concerns over the crossing at a town council meeting last week.

They feel there has not been an adequate consultation over the proposals.