It would be stupidity to close Ely level crossing, says former railway signal box worker

A vehicle has crashed and caused damage to Ely’s North level crossing after hitting the barriers and

A vehicle has crashed and caused damage to Ely’s North level crossing after hitting the barriers and causing it to be closed. PHOTO: Google - Credit: Archant

Ely could grind to a halt if there is an accident on the new bypass, if the level crossing is closed, a former railway worker and a parish councillor have warned.

A diagram showing future work on Ely underpass PHTO: Cambs County Council

A diagram showing future work on Ely underpass PHTO: Cambs County Council - Credit: Archant

Richard Hardiment, who worked on the railways for 40 years, and at one time worked in the Ely signalling box, said:”It is stupidity to suggest closing the level crossing.

“I know the hazards, I used to see it all the time. Why not keep the crossing for vehicles then keep the underpass for cyclists and pedestrians, or close the underpass and keep the crossing.

“I used to watch lorries all the time coming fast towards the bridge, only to realise at the last minute they couldn’t make it under. One said he forgot he wasn’t in his car.

“You cannot just open the bypass and shut the level crossing, what if there is an accident on the bypass, then what? Where will all the traffic go?

“It is not feasible to say they can re route via Stretham or Wicken for example.”

Rodney Vincent of Stuntney village council, says people will continue to use the quickest route - which will be the underpass if the crossing is shut - and not all vehicles will be able to get under the reduced height.

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He said the area needs a proper assessment of traffic flows before any final decision is made.

He fears there is a “determination of the county officials to go ahead with the Ely rail underpass restrictions despite the strong objections of the people who frequently use the eastern A142 entry/exit.

“The attitude of the officials seems to be - we made the decision in 2014 and nothing will change us now. You the people should have objected more at the time.

“They give the vague reason that it will make ‘significant improvements to the area and encourage people to use the new bypass.

“I would question how introducing unnecessary traffic control measure will bring improvements.

“Motorists will continue to use the quickest and most convenient way in and out of Ely and will not use the bypass if it takes longer.

“Regarding the safety of cyclists and pedestrians, why has this suddenly become a big issue after many years of satisfactory operation of the two-way underpass, and this at a time when its use will be reduced by the opening of the bypass?

“Are the officials so set in their ways that they will not even wait until a proper assessment of traffic flows can be made after the bypass is operating?”

• Cambridgeshire County Council say the changes will benefit motorists.

A spokesman said: “Once the bypass has opened, the level crossing will be closed. Traffic using the existing underpass at the low railway bridge will be single file and controlled with traffic lights, allowing significant improvements for pedestrians and cyclists to be made.

“This part of the project is a planning condition and aims to discourage through traffic from using the underpass and encourage use of the new bypass.

“It will not prevent local traffic from using this route should they wish to do so. We expect from traffic impact studies we’ve carried out, the majority of vehicles on the A142 will use the new road, greatly reducing the number of vehicles using the underpass.

“The waiting times at the proposed signals will therefore be short compared to the existing delays caused by the level crossing and make journey times much more reliable.

“We understand there are concerns amongst local residents about the traffic being single file and the use of traffic lights and we can assure you these concerns were considered in our traffic impact studies.

“It is estimated the traffic lights will result in a maximum queue delay of 27 seconds per vehicle and vehicles will only wait once at a red light.

“We have taken residents’ concerns into account and changed elements of the design to minimise delays by making sure the lights are activated by vehicle detectors, which means they will respond as vehicles approach and at times when there is no demand the lights will show red in both directions which will allow them to respond more quickly.

“We have also adjusted the position of the stop lines by moving them closer to each other to reduce the time between which a traffic light sequence can occur.

“We’re giving people an update on the changes that will be implemented as part of the scheme – the principles of which were agreed as part of the Ely Bypass planning application - and an opportunity for people to ask questions or raise comments on the project by July 31.”