On first glance, Network Rail’s proposal many months ago to close the Barrington Rd level crossing gate appeared to be a mistake: surely whoever was drawing up the multiple level crossing closures programme would come to their senses and realize that this was not a ‘minor rural level crossing’ but a key component of a complex overall level crossing environment, providing segregated movement away from the busy A10. But no, Network Rail was utterly serious about closing this gate and persisted with all the might of an organization that has unique powers on the railway.
By eliminating the Barrington Rd crossing, which is classified as a level crossing in its own right, Network Rail would be able to do away with the signal box, saving money, and eliminating one component of risk to itself.
In the first round of public consultations, this level crossing closure proposal had the highest response rate of anywhere in the region – and with only 2% in favour. The key points of concern were that people travelling through Foxton on the new walking/cycling path would be required to cross the A10 twice to exit and re-join the path, creating new risk to themselves and to traffic. And, for people wanting to get to or from Barrington Road, it would be necessary to walk round the long way via the slip road.
Nevertheless, Network Rail pushed the proposal forward to the next stage of consultation, eliciting another energetic public response. Many meetings took place – on site, in London, at Shire Hall and Foxton Village Hall, with representatives of Foxton Parish council and County Council Rights of Way team, as we explained to Network Rail the perspective of people who use the crossing on a daily basis.
More big tweaks were made and an unplanned third round of consultation took place: this time the proposal was to move the A10 road itself three metres over to the east, where it crosses the railway, in order to make room for a new walking/cycle path over the west side of the level crossing, alongside vehicle traffic. This would take years of bureaucracy and an as-yet- unidentified pot of money.
While the new proposed arrangement might have been acceptable for confident and physically able people, still it put all pedestrians, cyclists, wheelchair and pushchair users inside a vehicle traffic area. Thus risk would be transferred away from the rail operator to everyone using the path and the road.
By eliminating the Barrington Rd pedestrian gate crossing, the overall measurable risk of Foxton Level Crossing as a piece of rail infrastructure would reduce and with it, the impetus to address what is a fundamentally beyond-sell- by-date major level crossing. While Network Rail would be better off, everyone else would have added risk in traversing the level crossing.
We’ve now heard from the Network Rail Route Managing Director that the proposal has been withdrawn. It’s good to know that in the end, Network Rail has listened and changed its mind. Network Rail has also acknowledged criticism that it has dropped the ball in addressing the overall problem of the level crossing, expressed in its own feasibility study for closing the crossing and looking at new ways of moving people and traffic over the tracks.