Network Rail under fire from Cambridgeshire County Council over proposed level crossing closures in East Cambs and Fens

Poplar Drove Level Crossing. Littleport, Cambridgeshire

Poplar Drove Level Crossing. Littleport, Cambridgeshire - Credit: Archant

The county council has accused Network Rail of trying to push through level crossing closures in East Cambridgeshire and the Fens “without due regard to the impact on the highway network”.

West River Bridge Level Crossing. LittleThetford, Cambridgeshire

West River Bridge Level Crossing. LittleThetford, Cambridgeshire - Credit: Archant

In a tough stance to be presented to the county council highways and community infrastructure committee, councillors will be asked to oppose those closures they feel will threaten road safety.

Cross Keys Level Crossing. Ely, Cambridgeshire

Cross Keys Level Crossing. Ely, Cambridgeshire - Credit: Archant

Assets manager Camilla Rhodes says in her report to the committee that objections should be raised to those closures which do not offer a safe alternative, those that threaten rights of way and access to green space and those that offer “increase in liability” to the highways authority.

Brickyard Drove crossing. Whittlesey,

Brickyard Drove crossing. Whittlesey, - Credit: Archant

Network Rail is also criticised for using a technical device for consultation that has forced the county council to spend £25,000 (400 man hours) tackling the closures.

Wicken Road Level Crossing. Soham, Cambridgeshire

Wicken Road Level Crossing. Soham, Cambridgeshire - Credit: Archant

And Network Rail faces criticism from the county council “for not working truly in partnership and is pursuing its own agenda of reducing its asset liability” without regard to users.

Littleport Level Crossing. Littleport, Cambridgeshire

Littleport Level Crossing. Littleport, Cambridgeshire - Credit: Archant


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The council also criticises the Network Rail Diversity Impact Assessment Scoping Report which they claim is “fundamentally flawed in respects of its duties under the Equalities Act 2010”.

Furlong Drove Level Crossing, Downham.

Furlong Drove Level Crossing, Downham. - Credit: Archant

The county says Network Rail has failed to adequately assess the impact of the closures and the alternative routes on users, communities and vulnerable groups.

Coffue Drove Level Crossing. Downham, Cambridgeshire

Coffue Drove Level Crossing. Downham, Cambridgeshire - Credit: Archant

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A public inquiry is now almost certain to decide which, if any, closures can go ahead or indeed if all can go ahead.

Willow Road Level Crossing. Littleport, Cambridgeshire

Willow Road Level Crossing. Littleport, Cambridgeshire - Credit: Archant

The county council says five footpath crossings planned for closure in Ely give direct access to the countryside and to the river and these could have significant implications.

Ely North Junction Level Crossing. Ely, Cambridgeshire

Ely North Junction Level Crossing. Ely, Cambridgeshire - Credit: Archant

In Soham new housing is planned in the area near the proposed closure of footpaths, says Ms Rhodes, and at Littleport local heart watch walking groups user groups walk along routes threatened with closure.

Wells Engine Level Crossing. Ely, Cambridgeshire

Wells Engine Level Crossing. Ely, Cambridgeshire - Credit: Archant

“Solutions must recognise the importance of these paths in engendering the physical and mental well being of the local community through access to the wider network and areas of common land,” she says.

Second Drove Level Crossing. Ely, Cambridgeshire

Second Drove Level Crossing. Ely, Cambridgeshire - Credit: Archant

In a separate report she takes exception to Network Rail terminology and of some assumptions she says are made about use of public rights of ways.

Prickwillow 2 Level Crossing. Ely, Cambridgeshire

Prickwillow 2 Level Crossing. Ely, Cambridgeshire - Credit: Archant

“Some of the crossings are stated as being ‘rarely used’” she says. “This needs to be understood in the context of a rural environment whereby the crossing may only be used by a few people but they may be the only leisure route in the vicinity and therefore form an important local asset. ‘Rarely used’ should not be confused with ‘unimportant’”.

Munceys Level Crossing. Fordham, Cambridgeshire

Munceys Level Crossing. Fordham, Cambridgeshire - Credit: Archant

Committee chairman MacMcGuire said Network Rail was wrong to describe Poplar Drove, Littleport, as a private road.

“This is incorrect,” he said. “It is recorded as a pubic road and so discussions need to take place with regard to any potential downgrading of status with statutory consultees.”

He has told Network Rail they must have “sound justification for any diminution of the highway network on grounds of safety and efficiency”.

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