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Network Rail accused of exaggerating dangers of rail crossing

South West Trains Dorchester South

Published at 11:06am 17th August 2018. (Updated at 11:16am 17th August 2018)

Network Rail has been accused of exaggerating the dangers of a pedestrian rail crossing near Wool.

Those who want to keep the crossing open say the company carried out their survey of pedestrians using the route in January and claimed the section was a place where trains travel at over 80mph – while few seldom reach anywhere near that speed, according to opponents.

They also say the Network Rail suggested footpath diversion, along East Burton Road, is far more dangerous than crossing the rail track where visibility is around 300 yards.

But the company say that although the visibility might look adequate at high speeds a train driver would only have 5 seconds to react to a pedestrian on the line.

Councillors were partially convinced by those wanting to keep the crossing, know as Darkies, open and voted against supporting Network Rail’s bid for a closure order. Instead Dorset County Council will take a neutral stance – a decision applauded at Thursdays’ regulatory committee meeting.

“Network Rail appear to have underestimated usage considerably. In any event usage could increase considerably with the redevelopment of the adjoining technology park if a suitable exit is provided,” said Ralph Holmes from the Open Spaces Society in a letter to the committee.

Other objections to the closure order came from the Ramblers and two local residents – who also believe the crossing to be safe, with no accident record, and were unhappy about the diversion of Footpath 14 which would put walkers on the road and result in a much longer route.

Mrs Sheila Holmes said that since 1847 there had been no incidents, or accidents at the crossing and that the proposed diversion of the footpath would not only put pedestrians on a country road without pavements, or street lighting, and would increase the distance walked from 315metres to 900 metres.

She also claimed that closing the crossing would affect a series of other circular walks in the area, including those on Footpaths 13 and 17.

Madelaine Hemsley from the Ramblers said that despite the Network Rail pedestrian use figures, which were taken in January, there was local evidence that the path was widely used and becoming more popular – and was likely to see an increasing use with planned developments in the area.

An application to close a second crossing, at Footpath 18 at Hyford, was not considered by the committee after the only objection, from the Open Spaces Society, was withdrawn.

That crossing, near the perimeter of the Winfrith technology centre, between East Burton and Moreton, just off Moreton Common Road, is now expected to be shut.

Had the objection not been withdrawn it may have resulted in a public inquiry, either a full hearing, or by written representations.

Network Rail say that because trains sometimes pass each other at the crossing the risk of an accident is increased with the company claiming that using horns each time a train approached the crossing would result in neighbours being disturbed 136 times in an 18-hour day .

There is an alternative crossing 400 yards away at Soldier’s Bridge.

By Local Democracy Reporter, Trevor Bevins

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