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Crossing at Downham Market train station closed after safety concerns

PUBLISHED: 13:50 09 May 2011 | UPDATED: 14:55 09 May 2011

The barrow crossing at Downham Market train station was closed today by Network Rail. Pic: MATTHEW USHER

The barrow crossing at Downham Market train station was closed today by Network Rail. Pic: MATTHEW USHER

Archant © 2006

A pedestrian railway crossing was shut for good today after years of misuse by rail commuters and pedestrians.

Network Rail decided to close the barrow crossing at Downham Market railway station after becoming concerned about the amount of people who ignored the red lights and put their lives at risk.

Rail passengers will now be diverted to the nearby road crossing on Station Road, which has outraged South West Norfolk MP Elizabeth Truss.

She said: “I think that it is disgraceful after many years of proposing solutions that people in Downham Market didn’t want, Network Rail have imposed their plans on the station.

“It was made very clear that local residents wanted to see the barrow crossing made safe, rather than closed.

“I will raise this issue in parliament and will be seeking an urgent meeting with Network Rail’s chief executive, David Higgins.”

But Martin Gallagher, Network Rail’s head of level crossings, said the organisation’s biggest concern was the safety of the public.

He added: “The improvements we plan to put in place for pedestrians will boost safety at Downham Market, reducing the chance of someone putting their life on the line at a level crossing.

“The Station Road crossing has full barriers, warning lights and an audible alert to let people know when a train is due. This set-up is vastly superior to the barrow crossing and is the same as many hundreds of crossings across the country.”

Network Rail said that over a 20 day period last autumn, railway staff recorded an average of 13 incidents each day of pedestrians crossing when the red warning lights showed.

On one of those days, the crossing was misused 54 times between 8am and 6pm. Parents with small children and pushchairs were among those using crossing when the lights were red.

In 2009, Network Rail submitted plans for a footbridge between the platforms but that application was later withdrawn. A revised plan was rejected by West Norfolk council last April.

Since then, Network Rail has met with Ms Truss, town, borough and county councillors to discuss the issue and the organisation was urged not to close the crossing and put forward a number of proposed solutions.

However, Network Rail’s decision to close the crossing has been backed by First Capital Connect and the Office of Rail Regulation, the rail industry’s safety watchdog.

A First Capital Connect spokesperson said: “We fully support Network Rail’s decision to close the barrow crossing at Downham Market station.

“On behalf of our customers we will now work with Network Rail and other stakeholders to improve the current walkways and routes to the station.”

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