Residents demand crossing warning lights
By David LennardPEOPLE living in an isolated rural community have called for improved safety measures at a railway level crossing.There are only a handful of homes in the South Manor Farm area of Bramfield, near Halesworth, but residents and visitors have to use Barham's Crossing on the East Suffolk Line that runs from Ipswich to Lowestoft.
By David Lennard
PEOPLE living in an isolated rural community have called for improved safety measures at a railway level crossing.
There are only a handful of homes in the South Manor Farm area of Bramfield, near Halesworth, but residents and visitors have to use Barham's Crossing on the East Suffolk Line that runs from Ipswich to Lowestoft.
Emma Samkin, of Manor Farm South, Bramfield, said residents had been trying to get the level crossing improved for decades.
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“We have campaigned literally for decades for our gated crossing to be upgraded so that a simple light system would let users know when it is safe to cross the line,” she added.
The residents' campaign has had the support of Suffolk Coastal MP, John Gummer, and British Transport Police, but has not met with any success from Network Rail.
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“The gates have stood open for most of the 30 years that I have lived here because the so-called system of safety, involving walking backwards and forwards over the crossing opening and closing the gates in order to drive across once is patently time-wasting and dangerous, particularly after dark and in bad weather,” said Mrs Samkin.
“More importantly, it is also failing to provide safe passage for disabled and elderly drivers.”
Under present legislation, motorists approaching the crossing have to use a roadside telephone to contact a signalman before getting permission to open the gates, drive across and then close the gates behind them.
But the residents said using the phone was far from easy. “The phones need to be accessible from the car window and on the driver's side of the car. This would help the elderly and disabled,” said Mrs Samkin.
Residents have also complained about the lack of lighting at the crossing and the fact women drivers have to get out of their car at a lonely and isolated spot to use the crossing.
Network Rail has installed a surveillance camera at the level crossing to check that motorists used the crossing correctly, but the residents have insisted on warning lights being fitted.
A spokeswoman for Network Rail said it understood the concerns of residents living near the crossing and had instructed supervisors to visit and assess its condition.
“Unfortunately, there is little we are able to do to change the operation of the crossing,” she added.
“This crossing, its telephones and lighting, according to railway standards, is suitable for the level of vehicular, pedestrian and train traffic that passes across it.”
The spokeswoman said safety was Network Rail's priority and it believed gates with telephones to the signaller was the correct method for the crossing.
“The surveillance camera has highlighted that the crossing is being used incorrectly, with the gates regularly left open and the signaller not informed,” she added.
“Network Rail is trying to ensure that people do not unnecessarily lose their lives simply because they are in a hurry.”