Rail crossing reopened following criticism from St Albans community
PUBLISHED: 12:02 17 September 2015
Network Rail appears to have bowed to public pressure and reopened a popular level crossing footpath in St Albans three weeks after suddenly closing it because of 'misuse'.
The company was heavily criticised after it barred entry to an accessway over the Abbey Flyer railway in Cottonmill estate, forcing users to walk further than usual.
That was despite the county council saying Network Rail had been issued a temporary traffic regulation order allowing it to close the crossing for just one day for the removal and reinstallation of the foot crossing.
The council told the authority to re-open it but Network Rail failed to act immediately, saying its emergency closure was in response to its staff recording 248 incidents of misuse over a nine-day period, including users wearing headphones, or talking on mobile phones.
Also, groups of youths had apparently loitered on the tracks, and one young person lay down on the crossing.
An astonished Gail Jackson, of St Albans, said: “Everyone under the age of 30 wears headphones. It’s 2015. There are many older residents, people with disabilities, with buggies or with bikes who currently use this key crossing daily and require a path which is flat and accessible.”
The crossing was reopened last Wednesday (9) after a temporary speed restriction - 20mph - was put in place to reduce the degree of risk to users, rather than the 50mph limit which was in operation before.
Network Rail’s area director Mark Killick said: “We have listened to comments from local people about the crossing and looked at how it could be reopened with a lower level of risk.”
The rail infrastructure company still wants to provide an alternative route across the line. In the meantime, Mark urged “everyone to use the crossing in the correct way and not put themselves or others at risk”.
Willem Hofland, who was among the many pedestrians affected by the sudden closure, criticised the use of officers from the British Transport Police (BTP) whom he saw patrolling the crossing on the day it reopened as “a complete waste of resources”.
A spokesman for BTP confirmed that officers had been sent to St Albans on Wednesday as Network Rail had been reviewing safety fencing near the Abbey Flyer.
County councillor for St Albans south, Sandy Walkington, welcomed the reopening as a victory for locals and a “sensible response” in light of residents’ complaints.