Network Rail’s proposal to close level crossings across Suffolk will increase congestion in Bury St Edmunds, a councillor has warned.
The Cattishall crossing is one of 24 which could be closed or downgraded as a result of the plans, which are being considered at a five-week public inquiry which opened on Tuesday.
But Cllr Alaric Pugh, in a document submitted to the inquiry, said that the closure of the Cattishall crossing could isolate the Moreton Hall estate and Bury North East, making them unable to reach by foot.
“If residents don’t feel they can cross the railway line then the journey would be a lot longer and walking and cycling become significantly less attractive,” he said.
“So much so that if new residents don’t want to use the Victorian underpass they would be left with no alternative but to get in their cars and add to the congestion on the highway network.”
He added that the plans went against St Edmundsbury Borough Council’s core strategy which sought to ‘improve public transport, foot and cycle links to the town centre and south towards the A14 and strategic employment sites’.
Sue Rumfitt, representing the Suffolk Ramblers Association at the inquiry, also said that those who do continued to walk the alternative routes would be put in more danger.
“A number of the proposed alternative routes make pedestrians walk on or along the side of country roads, on which cars are often going very fast and do not expect to see people walking,” she said.
“Network Rail wants to reduce safety risks on its network but the knock-on effect is that it will increase safety risks elsewhere. For Network Rail, it’s out of sight, out of mind.”
But National Rail said the proposed changes would benefit the wider community, making level crossings safer for pedestrians, passengers and railway staff and creating a more efficient and reliable railway.
Barrister Jacqueline Lean, representing Network Rail, said: “Network Rail’s strategy aligns with public health and safety requirements.
“Level crossings form the largest point of accidents and 77 per cent of all level crossing accidents have involved pedestrian users.
“Safety is at the heart of Network Rail and it’s committed to reducing the number of accidents at level crossings.”