Near misses at St Albans level crossing prompt Network Rail reaction

A child crossing the Cottonmill level-crossing. Picture: Network Rail

A child crossing the Cottonmill level-crossing. Picture: Network Rail - Credit: Archant

Train bosses are reviewing the safety of a St Albans level crossing after yet another two near misses in a fortnight.

These are just the latest examples in a series of reckless behaviour over the Cottonmill Lane level crossing - on both January 25 and February 5 people narrowly avoided death or serious injury.

Covert surveys undertaken between July 25 and August 2, 2015, and July 1 to July 9, 2017, recorded 787 separate incidents of dangerous behaviour at the railway line.

Network Rail responded by closing the crossing in 2015, only to reopen it three weeks later after pressure from Herts county council and local residents, who argued Sopwell ward would be cut in half and left isolated.

Throughout this week Network Rail will be at the crossing trying to teach users about how dangerous the line is.

It is a popular passing place, with more than 1,000 pedestrians and cyclists using it every day and about 60 trains travelling between Albans Abbey and Watford Junction.

Herts county councillor Sandy Walkington said: “I have been working very hard with the Rights of Way team at County Hall to persuade Network Rail to come up with solutions that work for everyone – a safe crossing of the line that also provides an appropriate route for cyclists and other wheeled users using the Green Ring or needing to access Griffiths Way, Westminster Lodge or travel in a green way up to town and between the two halves of Sopwell ward.

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“In the meantime we must avoid any behaviour that encourages a precipitate closure of the crossing. The fact that we managed to stop them doing this previously is no guarantee that they will not try again.”

Head of safety for Network Rail’s London North Western route, Priti Patel, said the high number of incidents is worrying: “We want to remind everyone of the significant risk to people’s lives if they don’t [use crossings safely].

“Our advice is simple: never take a chance on a level crossing and always use it correctly.”

Instead of closing the crossing, Network Rail has installed lighting, clear markings, new signs and a yellow walkway to help people use the crossing correctly.

It has also cut back vegetation to improve visibility.

The busy Cotton Mill Lane crossing is close to schools, a supermarket, a leisure centre and a retail park, and is used by around 800 pedestrians and 200 cyclists every day.