The inquiry which will determine whether the much-used Weatherby foot crossing over Newmarket’s railway will stay open will now be held in the town.
The town council, which offered the use of the memorial hall for the part of the hearing covering the Newmarket crossing, was told on Monday that the inquiry, which is looking into a number of crossing closures across Suffolk and opens next month in Bury St Edmunds, will move to the town to examine local evidence on Tuesday and Wednesday, March 13 and 14.
Town clerk Roberta Bennett said the council was currently working on its proof of evidence in preparation for the hearing which would be detailing concerns as to how a decision to close the crossing would cause ‘community severance’ and about the diversion route suggested by Network Rail.
“We have just got to make sure this crossing is not closed as it will have a devastating effect on the town,” said Cllr Warwick Hirst, who with Cllr Peter Hulbert has been at the forefront of the council’s campaign to keep the crossing open.
Residents’ campaigner Philip Hodson, who lives in New Cheveley Road, has called on those who want to keep the crossing open to attend the hearing in Newmarket.
“It is vitally important that the community attends on the day which affects their crossing. To fail to attend gives carte blanche to the Minister of State for Transport to issue closure orders in defiance of community wishes,” he said.
“After all, if the community does not care, why should he?”
Crossing campaigner Rachel Wood has researched the crossing through the Great Eastern Railway society which came up with an article from 1878 showing that at that time it was known as Mrs. Wetherby’s crossing and also found a reference in to it in the 1885 Newmarket Journal.
According to Network Rail, which wants to close the crossing on safety grounds, people currently using it would onkly face a ‘small inconvenience’ but campaigners said the detour would double the walk time for parents taking children from Newmarket's Cheveley Road to All Saints’ School, meaning daily school run journeys could take up to two hours and 20 minutes.