Residents vent anger at rail crossing closure bid

More than 200 people turned out in a show of opposition against plans to close a “much valued” barrow crossing at a public meeting in a north Suffolk town.

Network Rail is proposing to close the crossing at Halesworth Station amid safety concerns, classing it as “high risk” and stating that improving safety at all crossings was of paramount importance following the deaths of two teenage girls at a crossing in Elsenham, Essex, in 2005.

The firm has rejected ideas to build a replacement footbridge or underpass, and said installing miniature traffic light-style controls could increase the risk. Instead, if the crossing were to be closed, passengers would be diverted via footpaths around the station, an on-foot journey which was estimated by Network Rail staff to take around six minutes.

However, residents claimed that with only one train an hour passing through the station the risk of an accident was low, and that the proposed new route was not appropriately designed for the disabled or people with pushchairs.

Those arriving at the station from the east but wishing to travel on a London bound train would also have to walk the additional 400 metre route to purchase a ticket, before retracing their steps to get back to the required platform.

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A petition against the proposals, launched by resident Jill Reece, racked up almost 100 signatures at the meeting alone, taking the total number to more than 620 before it was handed to Network Rail.

One mum of teenage boys said she was concerned the risk would actually be increased as young people would ignore the diversion route and instead jump across to where the crossing would formerly have been.

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“I’m not condoning that, but that’s what they will do,” she said. “You will make it more dangerous and you will have an accident.”

Another audience member said: “It’s a very important crossing, not just for rail users but for everybody.

“How does a disabled person go up a slope which is poorly maintained, cross over your railway bridge, come back down then find a way by disabled access onto the Lowestoft platform to get their ticket then go back? How can you justify that?”

One member of the Community Rail Partnership in the town, who also works at the station, said: “It’s not just a rail crossing, it’s a crossing to the doctor’s surgery and the hospital, and it will impact an awful lot of people. It will also drive away traffic from the station which we have worked so hard to bring into Halesworth.

“We have worked incredibly hard to bring a bus service for those trains. People will just stop using it.

“You will undo so much work that has been done and taken years and years to do. We value that crossing so much.”

The consultation into the crossing closure continues.

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