Rail regulator and disability group inspect Halesworth barrow crossing

About 50 people turned out to talk to the Suffolk Coalition for Disabled People about plans to close

About 50 people turned out to talk to the Suffolk Coalition for Disabled People about plans to close the crossing - Credit: Archant

Halesworth residents' fight to keep the town's railway platform crossing has been given a boost as rail chiefs have been asked to look again at other options before closing it.

The rail regulator, the Office of Rail and Road (ORR), has written to Network Rail, which has announced it will be closing the crossing by the end of the year on safety grounds, asking it to consider the installation of various safety measures to mitigate the current risks.

These include the installation of a footbridge, the use of miniature warning lights or installation of 'stop and proceed' boards.

The letters follow a visit by HM Chief Inspector of Railways, Ian Prosser, to Halesworth recently to assess the risks relating to the crossing.

Suffolk Coastal MP Therese Coffey said: 'I'm delighted that the ORR has asked Network Rail to look again at the proposed closure and work up alternative options to try and keep the crossing open.

'In my recent meeting, the chief executive of Network Rail, Mark Carne, promised to look carefully at the letter before making a final decision, especially if it challenges Network Rail's own assessment on risk or if it suggests other ways of keeping the crossing open. That has now happened, so I hope they now make the right decision and keep the crossing open with enhanced safety measures.'

The Suffolk Coalition for Disabled People has this week heard from residents who would find it difficult to manage the 400-metre diversion Network Rail proposes after the closure.

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About 50 people gathered on Tuesday to meet Geof Dix from the coalition, who said he had already received 40 emails from Halesworth residents with disabilities. He tried the diversion, which includes hills and spoke to more people at the meeting.

The inspection was interrupted by the arrival of two police officers at the crossing. A spokesman from Suffolk Constabulary said they received a call from a concerned member of public who thought the group were trying to block the crossing to stop trains. On realising it was a peaceful protest, officers left the station.

A survey by Network Rail found 206 people crossed the station behind a train over a nine-day period. An Office for Rail and Road report said it 'gives cause for concern.' Other options to improve safety, such as relocating the crossing, using manned gates or barriers, had been rejected by Network Rail, as they did not remove the risk.