St Albans residents successful in getting Herts county council to support keeping Cottonmill crossing open

Sandy Walkington, Janet Charles and Andy Lunn at Hertfordshire County Hall on Tuesday.

Sandy Walkington, Janet Charles and Andy Lunn at Hertfordshire County Hall on Tuesday. - Credit: Archant

A campaign by Sopwell residents to keep a lifeline level crossing open has won the backing of County Hall.

Without the Cottonmill crossing, Sopwell would be cut in two by the Abbey railway line – forcing residents to make a lengthy detour.

Cllr Sandy Walkington said: “None of us believe consideration has been properly given to the risks of closing this crossing and the impact on some current users, who will not be able to use the proposed much longer alternative routes simply because they are elderly or infirm.

“That is why we are asking Network Rail to go back to the drawing board and think again.”

Now, Herts county council will write to Network Rail, calling on it to halt to any plans to close the crossing and install additional safety measures – such as warning lights.

Councillors took the decision at a meeting of the full council on Tuesday, where they were presented with a petition of 1,508 signatures from residents.

Backing a motion proposed by Liberal Democrat Cllr Walkington, they agreed closing the crossing would be “wholly disproportionate”.

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Cllr Walkington said most of the instances of “alleged unsafe behaviours” at the crossing related to people wearing headphones.

He added that was why they were asking Network Rail to consider the installation of warning lights – which would help deaf people too.

It has been estimated the crossing is used by more than 1,000 pedestrians and cyclists every day as a vital link to schools, work and shops based on the other side of the track.

Presenting the petition at the meeting, resident Janet Charles told councillors that closure of the crossing would be “devastating”.

“It’s a lifeline to local residents and closing it would cut the community in two,” she said.

“Sopwell is one of the more deprived wards in St Albans and has the lowest level of car usage. This pedestrian and cycle route is crucial.”

The council’s executive member for highways, Phil Bibby, told the meeting he had “great sympathy” with local residents.

He said he is supportive of residents and council officers working together with Network Rail in a bid to find an acceptable solution.