Mixed reaction to Downham Market crossing closure - what do you think..?

Network Rail closed the barrow crossing on Monday after becoming concerned about the amount of people who ignored the red lights and put their lives at risk.

Pedestrians and passengers must now use 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.'

However, town councillor Colin Sampson, who is also chairman of the Fen Line Users Association (FLUA), said: 'This needn't have come as a shock to anybody. Just the other week, two girls were narrowly missed by a train on the crossing and that I think was the final straw for Network Rail.

'Everyone has run out of patience with the idiots who misuse this crossing and it was inevitable that this has happened.

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'It's unfortunate but in the circumstances I fully back what Network Rail has done. It's not ideal but it's the best they can do because we can't have an underpass or a footbridge.

'Using this other crossing means people will have to leave earlier and I would suggest leaving at least 10 minutes earlier if they want to buy a ticket from the office and get on a King's Lynn-bound train.'

Martin Gallagher, Network Rail's head of level crossings, echoed Cllr Sampson's comments and 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 and reduce 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.'

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 the crossing when the lights were red.

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

A First Capital Connect spokesman 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.'

In 2009, Network Rail had submitted plans for a footbridge between the platforms but that application was later withdrawn after consultation with the English Heritage and the Railway Heritage Trust. A revised plan was then rejected by West Norfolk council last April.

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