No reprieve for Newmarket rail crossing

Weatherby Crossing, Newmarket rail protest
Weatherby Crossing, Newmarket rail protest

Despite hundreds of objections from users, Network Rail has confirmed its intention to close Newmarket’s much used foot crossing.

And a large proportion of the town’s residents could literally find themselves living on the wrong side of the tracks and facing a long detour to get into the town if the track bosses’ recommendations are agreed by the Transport Secretary.

The company has applied for a legal order to close 24 level crossings across Suffolk, including the one in Newmarket, as part of its plan to make railways safer after the Office of Rail Regulation ordered it to embark on a nationwide programme of reducing risk following the deaths of Olivia Bazlinton, 14, and Charlotte Thompson, 13, at the Elsenham crossing in 2005. Network Rail was fined £1 million and since 2010 about 900 of the 7,000 crossings across the country have been shut.

New Cheveley Road resident Pat Collins, one of those who has fought the Newmarket closure, said: “It still seems ludicrous to me to close this crossing when there does not appear to be a safety issue. The trains are never travelling fast because it is so near to the station and the heath tunnel and you can see them coming from a distance. The alternative route that has been proposed is a very long way round and I am thinking of challenging the Transport Secretary Chris Grayling to come and walk it and see what he thinks.”

Richard Schofield, Network Rail’s route managing director for Anglia, said: “We understand that public rights of way are an important part of life in this region and have maintained connectivity where possible in our plans. We are committed to improving safety and efficiency at level crossings as part of our railway upgrade plan.”

Closures, if agreed, will take place from late 2018. Objections must be sent to the Secretary of State for Transport by May 5 or emailed to transportandworksacr@dft.gsi.gov.uk