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Published on : Friday, August 12, 2016
Following a public meeting with residents and further discussions with MP for Suffolk Coastal, Dr Thérèse Coffey, a decision has been taken to install gates with additional safety warnings at the approaches to the crossing, warning cyclists to dismount and giving instructions to wait until a train has cleared the platform before crossing safely. The unlocked gates provide the opportunity for users to pause and read the additional safety guidance ahead of crossing. The design will enable disabled people or those with buggies or luggage to pass through if they choose not to use the alternative path over the Norwich Road.
There have been four near misses reported by train drivers since June 2014 where people have attempted to cross with a departing train moving towards them. Any slip or trip by those on the crossing could have meant the train, while moving slowly, may not have been able to break in time, before hitting the person on the tracks.
Earlier this year, Network Rail carried out a nine day census of the crossing, where it recorded 206 incidents of people walking behind or in front of a train in the station, which was soon to depart. In many cases, they were unable to see if a train was approaching from the opposite direction. While the possibility of this was low, the risk remains that an engineering or empty train, not on the timetable, could still pass unexpectedly through.
The census also found 32 cyclists crossed without dismounting their bike. There have been incidents at crossings where cyclists have got their wheels caught in the rails. The gates will encourage cyclists to dismount and pass more safely across the platform and crossing.
It is planned that the gates and signage will be installed this autumn. Network Rail will continue to monitor and carry out two more nine-day censuses following the installation to assess any change in behaviour at the crossing.
Commenting on the decision, Dr Thérèse Coffey MP said: “I’m delighted that Network Rail have looked again at their proposed closure of the barrow crossing and will now keep it open with enhanced safety measures. This is a fantastic result for the people of Halesworth who made their views on the closure very clear. Everyone in Halesworth, though, needs to recognise the importance of using this crossing safely, if we want to keep it open in perpetuity.”
Richard Schofield, Network Rail route managing director said: “Our aim is to improve safety for those using what is the riskiest barrow crossing in East Anglia. We’ve decided to take an interim step and install additional signage and gates, which we hope will remind everyone how to use the crossing safely.