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Government takes 3 years to approve only two-thirds of Network Rail’s level crossing safety improvements

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Network Rail has been given permission to close or modify 16 level crossings across Cambridgeshire.

Over 1,250 level crossings have been closed nationally since 2009. Another 250 have been repositioned so as to be safer for users.

Level crossings are where pedestrians and road vehicles come close to moving trains. Any error, technical fault or misuse can cause a serious accident.

Pedestrians and trains come into close proximity at level crossings.
Andrew Haines, Network Rail.

In his forward to Network Rail’s ‘Enhancing Level Crossing Safety 2019 – 2029’ strategy document, chief executive Andrew Haynes wrote: “If we were to build the railway from scratch today, we wouldn’t include level crossings. They pose a risk to our passengers and members of the public, who can also be delayed if there is a fault or incident at a level crossing.

“However, we know what an important part of day-to-day life these crossings play for the communities around them.

“Simply put, the safest level crossing is a closed one. We know that closing our level crossings isn’t always a realistic option for the communities they serve. That’s why, since 2009, we have invested over £200 million in improving safety at thousands of crossings, which includes closures, building bridges, identifying new safer rights of way, installing new barriers and warning systems, new signage and educating the people that use them how to be safe around them.”

As part of this process, Network Rail applied for a Transport and Works Act Order in 2017 to obtain the powers to close or modify 25 level crossings in Cambridgeshire. In November 2020, three years later, the Secretary of State for Transport granted Network Rail the powers to close or modify 16 of them. Another has already been closed as part of a different process.

Similar applications have been made around the country. However, with the length of time that the applications take to process, and if the 64% success rate that has been demonstrated in Cambridgeshire is typical, closing yet more crossings to make the railway safer could take a while.

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