Published: 14:18, 14 September 2021
| Updated: 14:19, 14 September 2021
Attempts to reopen a well-used railway foot crossing have failed, with campaigners told it may never be reinstated.
Simpsons Crossing at Bobbing, joining Archers Park with playing fields at The Grove, was shut temporarily in March after safety concerns.
Network Rail said there had been 53 incidents in the past three years, many involving children. Nearly 200 trains pass through it each day at high speeds, which the firm said posed “a danger to life”.
But Meads councillor James Hunt submitted a petition to Kent County Council (KCC) and Network Rail, signed by 140 people, to come up with a solution to the closure, after pedestrians began using a dangerous makeshift walkway alongside the busy A249 but has received no response for the rail firm.
Instead he has learned from KCC there will be a consultation this month over a proposed diversion route, south of the railway line and along the Sheppey Way. He said: “I think the way that the closure has been dealt with is wholly unacceptable.
“While I understand the safety concerns of Network Rail and KCC, local residents have been treated unfairly by not being given any opportunity to comment. The proposed diversion is not adequate in my view.
“This would create a longer route and could increase the likelihood of pedestrians creating shortcuts, as we are currently seeing with pedestrians using the busy A249.
'The council finds itself in a difficult position...'
“Residents of Archers Park and the rest of The Meads need to be able to cross safely and easily to access the facilities the other side and this should have been considered before any closure was put in place.”
KCC’s Cllr Michael Hill, cabinet member for community and regulatory services said he thought it likely the footpath would remain shut until a solution could be found. He added: “We do recognise the inconvenience that the temporary closure causes.”
“The council finds itself in a difficult position. Network Rail as the body responsible for safety at level crossings sought a closure of the crossing on a temporary basis in response to what they assessed as high levels of risk at the crossing.
“Their assessment was supported by a nine day census at the crossing that provided clear evidence of misuse and inappropriate behaviours at the crossing.
“I must stress that Network Rail is aware that the temporary traffic regulation order was not made unconditionally or without scrutiny.
“The council recognise that Network Rail have no off the shelf mitigation measures that can be deployed at the crossing and therefore the temporary closure was made to allow them sufficient time to develop and consult on a solution and to pursue that solution to completion.
“It is understood that the proposed solution will involve the diversion of the footpath to the south of the railway to meet Sheppey Way.”
“Unfortunately this process takes time and therefore an extension to the existing temporary closure is being sought from the Secretary of State for Transport.
“The Secretary of State has been made aware of the petition and local concerns although I think it highly likely that the extension will be granted.”
A spokesman for Network Rail said: "The Simpsons level crossing (also referred to as Bobbins), was temporarily closed due to a high number of life-threating incidents, some involving children and vulnerable people, and we have spent the past few months liaising closely with Kent County Council to find a safe and convenient alternative for local residents.
"We believe we have this alternative and aim to present our proposals and seek feedback at a public information event where we will be keen to get feedback from the local community.
"This meeting will be advertised at least three weeks in advance and local councillors and residents will be invited.“
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