Concerns remain over safety at Halesworth's barrow crossing
Archant © 2017
The pedestrian crossing at Halesworth's railway station could be at risk of closure again over fears it is still being used in an unsafe manner.
Network Rail’s planned closure of the barrow crossing was put on hold last summer thanks to a vigorous campaign by residents, councillors and Suffolk Coastal MP Therese Coffey, who argued that the 400-metre planned diversion would be too difficult for older or disabled people if the crossing was closed.
Instead, they urged the company to install more safety measures, something Network Rail agreed to do putting up new gates and fencing at the start of the year.
However, following a meeting with representatives from Halesworth Town Council and the East Suffolk Travellers Association, Network Rail has said it will be conducting another user survey in the next few months to see if safety has improved.
A Network Rail spokesman said: “We are working with the local council to encourage safe use of the crossing, however if the crossing is still being used in an unsafe manner we will consider closing it again.”
The last inspection was carried out in June this year and Network Rail said the main concerns were people walking in front of stationary trains without being able to see if a train was coming the other way, people walking in front of trains that were approaching the station and people cycling on the crossing.
The spokesman added: “Walking in front of trains as they are approaching the station, even if they are stopping, is incredibly dangerous and can result in serious injury or death. Even when a train is moving slowly, it can take a while for it to come to a complete stop. There is also the risk that someone trips or falls while crossing, particularly if they are rushing in order to get across before the train approaches.”
Peter Dutton, chairman of Halesworth Town Council, said they have taken steps to spread the safety message, publicising it in community news, posting leaflets and putting up notices.
He said: “Things are improving but like anything it takes people a long time to change their habits.
“We just keep putting the message out there that people must abide by the rules or we will lose the crossing and everyone will face the long trek around which is difficult for older people, those who have difficulty walking, people carrying luggage and mums with pushchairs.”
The East Suffolk Travellers’ Association has carried out its own survey of the foot-crossing over the railway line at Halesworth station.
The survey, which took place from October 30 to November 5, monitored station usage during a time that covered 113 trains over 60 hours, with 750 people using the crossing in that period.
It said 136 walked in front of the Ipswich train while it was stood at the platform, nine did the same in the opposite direction with trains to Lowestoft and six cyclists did not get off their bikes to use the crossing.
However the ESTA observers believe that only two of the points recorded would have been regarded as ‘at risk.’
ESTA is suggesting that extra use of the train horns and the on-board public address system could be additional safety measures. Electronic gates on the platform ends that ensured the gates were locked to prevent use of the crossing when a train was at the platform might also be investigated.
Their findings were sent to Network Rail, Greater Anglia, Halesworth Town Council and Dr Coffey.