Cottonmill crossing users begin petition to thwart Network Rail closure plans

PUBLISHED: 12:50 13 August 2018 | UPDATED: 10:40 22 August 2018

Cottonmill Lane level crossing, St Albans,

Cottonmill Lane level crossing, St Albans,

Archant

Cottonmill and Sopwell residents are petitioning Herts County Council to help oppose any attempts to close a railway crossing.

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

The crossing connects the Alban Way and Griffiths Way and leads to Sainsbury’s and Verulamium Park and is used by around 1,000 pedestrians and cyclists every day.

Network Rail has previously closed the crossing temporarily due to dangerous behaviour by some users, leaving residents fearful it could be shut permanently.

The petition reads: “We the undersigned petition the county council to work with local residents to stop the much used Cottonmill railway crossing from being closed and instead require Network Rail to put in place all possible and appropriate safety measures and procedures.”

It calls on Network Rail to install flashing lights and self-locking gates and ensure train drivers use their horns on approach to the crossing.

The foot crossing over Abbey Flyer Railway in Cottonmill Estate which has been closed by Network RailThe foot crossing over Abbey Flyer Railway in Cottonmill Estate which has been closed by Network Rail

Cottonmill resident Chantal Burns said: “Closing it is going to have a massive, detrimental impact on the city and the community. People have family on the other side, so it will split the community.

“It’s going to make a difference to people going to the shops and for kids who cycle to school every day as the other way around, Cottonmill Lane, is a really long way around and a very fast road. So it’s a small, but really important crossing.”

Chantal knows of people from as far as Hemel Hempstead who use the crossing, which is reckoned to be around 90 years old and pre-dates the railway that takes trains from St Albans Abbey to Watford.

“We have got some very passionately upset, but also very motivated, residents who will do whatever it takes to keep it open”, she added.

Teenagers misusing the Cottonmill level crossing. Picture: Network Rail CCTVTeenagers misusing the Cottonmill level crossing. Picture: Network Rail CCTV

Network Rail previously closed the crossing in 2015, but reopened it three weeks later under pressure from the county council and residents.

County councillor for St Albans South Sandy Walkington said: “I’m totally in favour of the petition because it will give the county council ammunition to challenge Network Rail over any plans to close the crossing.

“No plans have been published, but it’s quite clear they have it in their sights.

“The council’s rights of way team have done a brilliant job and they and I have been very firm in saying to Network Rail they have to do more to make the current crossing safe and the petition makes clear there are other safety measures as well, before Network Rail can take a truly disastrous step, which would cut Sopwell in two.

“They are taking a very bureaucratic approach to this. There will be crossings on higher speed railways which have two people a day crossing them and this is a slow-speed rail used by thousands every day. There is always someone about to cross it.

“So the petition is power to the council’s elbow and I will be working very closely with the petitioners.”

Network Rail recorded 787 separate incidents of dangerous behaviour at the crossing between July 25 and August 2, 2015 and July 1 to July 9, 2017.

A Network Rail spokesperson said: “Cottonmill Lane level crossing has unacceptable incidents of deliberate misuse. Our priority will always be the safety of those who use it. We continue to work with Hertfordshire County Council and St Albans City and District Council to find an alternative to a level crossing at this location.”

To see the petition, visit democracy.hertfordshire.gov.uk/mgEPetitionDisplay.aspx?id=17&TPID=200900&$LO$=1

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