Network Rail unveil alternatives for Cottonmill Crossing in St Albans
PUBLISHED: 11:36 12 September 2018 | UPDATED: 11:41 12 September 2018
Network Rail has unveiled its proposed alternatives to the Cottonmill crossing in St Albans.
Some residents reacted with anger when they saw the suggestions at a consultation meeting taking place at St Julian’s Church Hall on Abbots Avenue on Tuesday.
Network Rail has proposed closing the Cottonmill crossing between Berners Drive and Griffiths Way and their preferred option to replace it is another footpath that would run parallel along the Abbey Line, which the current crossing allows pedestrians and cyclists to navigate.
Network Rail spokesperson Simon Evans said: “We looked at a total of six options, including a subway option that was quite costly and quite disruptive as well as bridge options and just shutting the crossing.
“But the favourite option was to build a diversionary route, a new pathway, to St Albans Abbey station, which would be good for walking, cycling and also disabled users.
“It’s safer and longer, but it does have safety benefits. We are legally responsible for this crossing and the proportion of misuse is unduly high and we want to take action now before something terrible happens.”
Network Rail has recorded 787 instances of people misusing the crossing, including by not paying attention while wearing headphones and playing chicken with the oncoming train.
Mr Evans said: “We appreciate there are various people opposed to our plans, but what we hope to achieve is where we listen to them, but they listen to us and we are able to explain to them what we want to do and why.
“It’s the why that’s really important. As a business we want to make the railway safe.”
If the route option went ahead, Network Rail would fund it, remove the Cottonmill crossing and install lighting on the new route.
Asked how they would stop people from continuing to use the crossing, Mr Evans said: “It’s very difficult to stop them. There are pretty high fines for trespassing on the railway.”
Several of the people who visited Tuesday’s consultation were quite upset about the proposals, with one person calling it the ‘usual whitewash’ and saying the crossing was ‘set up to close’.
Cottonmill residents set up a stand outside to show opposing arguments to closing the crossing and to keep track of where the people coming to the meeting were from.
They counted 90 entering the meeting within 20 minutes and 500 people at the meeting in total.
One of those residents, Chantal Burns, said: “It was a great success from the residents’ perspective as we really showed our mettle with an amazing turnout.”
Several people who use the crossing came from as far as outside the district to the meeting
“An absolutely important point is the criteria they use to qualify dangerous behaviour. At the meeting, they were not sure what it was and we, as residents, and the council need to be challenging Network Rail on their criteria for dangerous behaviour.
“It’s a one-track railway line and there are not lots of bends so you can see pretty clearly and the trains go at 20mph. If you are wearing headphones at that point, that is not dangerous behaviour, that is insulting to people who are hard of hearing.
“The right hand of Network Rail does not know what the left hand is doing. One of their representatives at the meeting told me at the meeting that wearing headphones, but looking right and left, was not dangerous behaviour. How they are measuring things absolutely needs to be challenged.
“If the criteria for dangerous behaviour is flawed, the whole case is flawed. It’s so badly thought-out and it’s laughable what they think is a great solution is really a totally unacceptable non-option.”
She called the crossing a ‘lifeline’ for lots of people who use it visit shops on Griffiths Way and to take their children to school.
The last accident which occurred on the line, Ms Burns said, involved a dog getting its paw caught and its owner trying to free it and that was 20 years ago.
Asked what is next for the residents, she answered: “What is next is we carry on as residents, gathering data and working closely with the county council and get them and Network Rail to let us know what is happening, but until then we will wait and see what their next move is.”