Network Rail makes level crossing entry ‘impossible’ for disabled people to access in St Albans

PUBLISHED: 21:00 08 October 2015

Disabled people cannot cross the accessway over the Abbey Flyer railway in Cottonmill estate. Photo courtesy of Willem Hofland

Disabled people cannot cross the accessway over the Abbey Flyer railway in Cottonmill estate. Photo courtesy of Willem Hofland

Willem Hofland

Network Rail has copped yet more flak over its mishandling of a level crossing footpath in St Albans, with disabled people struggling to cross the re-opened accessway.

Disabled people cannot cross the accessway over the Abbey Flyer railway in Cottonmill estate. Photo courtesy of Willem HoflandDisabled people cannot cross the accessway over the Abbey Flyer railway in Cottonmill estate. Photo courtesy of Willem Hofland

Efforts to make the pathway over the Abbey Flyer railway in Cottonmill estate safer, after hundreds of incidents of misuse were recorded, included the installation of strong springs on gates at the footpath’s entrance and exit last Friday (2).

But that has left disabled people such as Willem Hofland struggling to open the gate while on his motorised scooter.

Willem, 61, of Grindcobbe Close in St Albans, said: “If you are on your mobility scooter, you would need someone to hold the gates open for you, as they spring back into place.

“They are impossible for me to go through by myself.”

Disabled people cannot cross the accessway over the Abbey Flyer railway in Cottonmill estate. Photo courtesy of Willem HoflandDisabled people cannot cross the accessway over the Abbey Flyer railway in Cottonmill estate. Photo courtesy of Willem Hofland

Willem, who had a stroke eight years ago, has complained to Network Rail.

It is the latest in a series of problems with the popular crossing point, which Network Rail suddenly closed in late August as the firm was concerned about it being misused by pedestrians wearing headphones or talking on mobile phones.

However Network Rail then bowed to public pressure - not to mention a demand from Herts county council - and re-opened the accessway a few weeks ago.

But it has further annoyed people by installing the springs.

St Albans MP Anne Main has written to Network Rail in support of Willem, saying she is concerned that locals using a wheelchair or mobility scooter are finding it difficult to access the path without help.

She wrote: “As I am sure you can appreciate, we would not expect anyone to be disadvantaged when using this crossing.”

Mark Killick, area director for Network Rail, said springs were fitted on the gates so they closed after being used, because of worries over misuse of the path.

He added: “We are grateful for [Willem] reporting this, and we will meet with him to discuss his concerns. We will be inspecting the gate to make sure it is functioning correctly.”

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