Culvert underpass planned for Needham Market rail crossing
Network Rail is hoping to turn an existing culvert into an underpass alternative to a crossing on which 1960s film star Olive McFarland died.
It says the underpass was the public’s preferred option at a consultation held last November for an alternative to the Gipsy Lane crossing between Needham Market and Creeting St Mary, which is used by nearly 300 people a day.
Network Rail was fined £4 million plus £35,857 costs after the death of Ms McFarland, 82, in 2011.
Following the incident, a temporary 50mph speed restriction was imposed on trains, which do 100mph on the route, and the crossing distance was reduced by straightening the crossing and re-positioning the gate, to improve safety while plans for an alternative were explored.
A public information session will be held at Needham Market Community Centre on Wednesday December 14 between 4pm and 8pm where people can view the plans and ask questions.
The plans include upgrading an existing culvert 230 metres north of the level crossing plus creating a new public footpath to it.
Richard Schofield, Network Rail’s route managing director for Anglia, said: “Although we have improved safety at this crossing by introducing a speed restriction and reducing the crossing distance, we still believe that removing the level crossing is the safest option.
“We consulted with the community and other interested parties last year on alternatives and they told us they preferred a walking route under the railway rather to a bridge over it.
“We are committed to improving safety at level crossings across the region as part of our Railway Upgrade Plan.”
MP for Bury St Edmunds, Jo Churchill, said: “I am especially pleased that, following on from last year’s public consultation, Network Rail continues to engage with and deliver in the interests of local residents whilst maintaining safety and access at this site.”
Network Rail is working to finalise the plans and submit them through the official planning process next year.