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Network Rail made Sittingbourne crossing consultation 'as difficult as possible'


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A councillor has slammed Network Rail over its handling of a railway crossing closure.

Since Simpsons Crossing at Bobbing near Sittingbourne closed in March, Swale councillor James Hunt has been fighting to re-open it.

Network Rail and South Eastern Trains staff along with Cllr Mike Whiting at Simpson's Level Crossing. Picture: Chris Davey.
Network Rail and South Eastern Trains staff along with Cllr Mike Whiting at Simpson's Level Crossing. Picture: Chris Davey.

Cllr Hunt, who represents The Meads, has been in constant communication with Kent County Council and Network Rail about reopening the site and has a petition signed by 140 people.

Network Rail finally held a public consultation at Bobbing Village Hall on Friday, October 8 from 2pm to 7pm.

But the Conservative councillor said the company had made the event "as difficult as possible" to attend.

He said:"Residents told me they were unable to attend. They can respond on the Network Rail website or use the general enquiries line."

But he said the only way they could see details of the proposal was to go to the meeting. He said: "It is totally unacceptable.

Cllr James Hunt (Conservative) for The Meads. Picture: Swale council
Cllr James Hunt (Conservative) for The Meads. Picture: Swale council

"Full details of why Network Rail closed the crossing and what the proposals are could be published online for everyone to see and dedicated communications for the consultation should be made available.

"It appears Network Rail has already made its mind up and isn't interested in hearing the views of residents impacted by the closure."

The crossing, behind the Premier Inn under the A249, was blocked off in March after 53 safety incidents were recorded in the past three years.

Network Rail aid many "posed a danger to life" especially to children and vulnerable users.

Network Rail has said it has been looking for a "safer, convenient route across the line".

Network Rail and South Eastern Trains staff along with Cllr Mike Whiting at Simpson's Level Crossing, Bobbing. Picture: Chris Davey
Network Rail and South Eastern Trains staff along with Cllr Mike Whiting at Simpson's Level Crossing, Bobbing. Picture: Chris Davey

Last month , Kent County Council extended the closure of the footpath to September 2023.

A spokesman for Network Rail said: “This public meeting had been well advertised with letters posted to residents within 500 yards of the crossing and placed in visible locations nearby.

"Other stakeholders such local councils were notified and nearby media outlets informed. Our intention throughout has been to be as open and transparent as possible about the need to close the level crossing.

"We understand the decision will disappoint many but it follows dozens of incidents which posed a risk to life at the level crossing, including seven emergency stops in the past two years.

"Our priority has to be to protect the safety of the public and those who use the railway."

"We understand the decision will disappoint many but it follows dozens of incidents which posed a risk to life..."

He added: "We are intending to keep the crossing closed while providing a new, safe and pedestrian-friendly alternative route. We continue to welcome any feedback from the public or other stakeholders.”

For more information, visit networkrail.co.uk or call 03457 11 41 41 quoting Simpsons Level Crossing.

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