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Published on : Thursday, November 24, 2016
Residents in Needham Market are invited to an event to find out more about Network Rail’s plans to close Gipsy Lane level crossing and replace it with a new walking route.A public information session will be held at Needham Market Community Centre on Wednesday, 14 December between 4pm and 8pm where people can view the plans and ask questions.
The plans include upgrading an existing culvert situated 230 metres to the north of the level crossing. Network Rail will carry out work to provide a new dedicated public footpath leading to the culvert. The use of the culvert as an alternative route was the preferred option when the public were consulted last year.Closing the crossing has been Network Rail’s aim since the tragic death of Olive McFarland in 2011. However, an alternative method of crossing the railway is required first, in order to protect public rights of way. Following the incident, a temporary speed restriction was imposed to trains and the crossing distance was reduced by straightening the crossing and re-positioning the gate, to improve safety while plans for providing an alternative were explored. Since then, Network Rail has worked with Suffolk County Council and the local community to progress the plans for closure.
Richard Schofield, Network Rail’s route managing director for Anglia, said: “Although we have improved safety at this crossing by introducing a speed restriction and reducing the crossing distance, we still believe that removing the level crossing is the safest option.
“We consulted with the community and other interested parties last year on alternatives and they told us they preferred a walking route under the railway rather than a bridge over it. We pushed ahead with this option, working with the council, and we are now in a position to share our plans with the public. We are committed to improving safety at level crossings across the region as part of our Railway Upgrade Plan.”
MP for Bury St Edmunds, Jo Churchill, said: “I welcome the announcement of the public information session to be held next month, to update local residents of the next stages for the Gipsy Lane level crossing. I am especially pleased that, following on from last year’s public consultation, Network Rail continues to engage with and deliver in the interests of local residents whilst maintaining safety and access at this site.”
Network Rail is working to finalise the plans and submit them through the official planning process next year.
Notes to editors
Event address: Needham Market Community Centre School St, Needham Market, Ipswich IP6 8BB
Two consultation events took place on 18 and 21 November 2016 in Needham Community Centre which showcased seven options including using exiting public rights of way, new rights through the existing culvert, new ramped footbridges or a new underpass.
Feedback was received through questionnaires with a 28 day period for feedback from 14 November to 23 December 2015. 160 paper versions received, 14 online = total 174 responses.
Responses to the consultation were also received from statutory bodies.
The culvert option was the preferred option in all cases.
Trains travel at 100mph on the line, Network Rail imposed a 50mph speed restriction at the crossing following the death of Olive McFarland
A census on 4 November 2015 showed 297 pedestrian and cyclists use the crossing per day