Published: 00:01, 17 December 2017
Christmas has come early for villagers as a long-awaited railway crossing was lowered into place.
The £3 million footbridge – which will cross the line between St Mary’s Road and Elizabeth Street at Stone Crossing station – was craned into position during an early-morning snowstorm on Sunday.
Its installation is the culmination of six years of campaigning as the current level crossing is regularly closed due to staff shortages. Whenever that happens pedestrians face a lengthy detour through dark alleyways.
The situation was branded dangerous by chairman of Stone Parish Council, John Burrell, who criticised Network Rail for a failure to address the problem. Dartford MP Gareth Johnson also raised concerns.
Network Rail upped staff numbers last September to combat the issue and after coming under increasing pressure assured users they would staff Stone Crossing station permanently at night.
But after a reoccurrence of issues, a bridge was approved. It will be opened early next year.
Cllr Burrell said: “It’s fantastic news and it’s great to see the crossing is now physically in place. Network Rail were aiming to open it before Christmas but always said the weather might hold things up so an opening date of early next year is reasonable.”
Network Rail spokesman Chris Denham said: “The weather did its best to make life difficult for us as we craned the various different parts of Stone Crossing’s new bridge into place overnight.
“Luckily, although the snow made everyone very wet, the lack of wind meant the crane could work as normal and we lifted the trestles, the ramps and the bridge deck into place as dawn was breaking.
“There’s a fair amount of work left to do to the bridge before we open it and the level crossing will stay open until it’s complete.
“Many thanks to our passengers and especially our line-side neighbours, who put up with us working through the night.”