Hundreds voice crossing fears

Hunderds attended a heated meeting at Stowmarket's Community Hub on January 16 over fears rail crossings in the town may close ANL-150120-113904001

Hunderds attended a heated meeting at Stowmarket's Community Hub on January 16 over fears rail crossings in the town may close ANL-150120-113904001

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Hundreds packed Stowmarket’s Community Hub on Friday to show their support for railway crossings in the area they fear will close.

The heated meeting was arranged by the Suffolk Crossings campaign group who fear closing the town’s level crossings would create a ‘Berlin Wall’, splitting the community.

At Friday’s meeting, campaigner Rosie Carter said Network Rail were looking to close crossings across the county with the goal of creating a ‘Norwich in 90’ rail link to London. She said concerns over safety was being used to push forward plans - even though there had never been an accident at a Stowmarket crossing.

Rosie said if the crossings in Stowmarket were closed, the dangers would just be moved elsewhere.

“We don’t close the A14 every time there is an accident,” she said.

At the meeting, Steve Day, Liability Negotiations Advisor for Network Rail, said he had spent the last five years of his life devoted to closing crossings in East Anglia.

He said: “The first message is don’t panic.
“No public level crossings can be permanently closed without public consultation.

“We are looking for closures but nothing is going to happen any time soon.

“They are a 19th century solution to crossing a 21st century railway. If we were building a new network now we would not build any crossings.”

Residents grilled the rail firm’s representatives on what would happen next, making it clear residents would stand against any decision to close the crossings.

County Councillor Stephen Searle said at the meeting: “Our road infrastructure would be pushed to limit if you close the two crossings. I think you need to go back to the drawing board.”

Following the meeting, a Network Rail spokeswoman said: “Closing a level crossing is always about improving safety but in some cases, like on the line from Norwich to London, it will also help us to achieve faster journey times.

“We always look at how we can provide an alternative means for people to get across the railway when we consider closing a crossing.

“This project is very much at an early stage and in about six months we will have a clearer idea of what level crossings will be affected.”