Network Rail plans risk fragmenting the path network
Our volunteers across Essex, Suffolk and Cambridgeshire are responding to proposals being put forward by Network Rail for the closure of 130 level crossings in their Anglia region.
Of these, more than 100 are public rights of way—footpaths, bridleways and byways.
Network Rail argues that their proposals are intended “to reduce the risk that level crossings pose”, but our assessment of the plans has revealed a haphazard scheme. Some of the alternative routes which are being suggested will force walkers on to busy roads where they must face the dangers of fast traffic, often on roads with no pavements, or take them on long detours.
We welcome moves to make level crossings as safe as possible through education, improvements to crossing approaches, and the provision of warning lights and alarms. We feel that the closure of such crossings should only ever be a matter of last resort, and that when closure of a level crossing is being considered then the alternative route must be safe and convenient for all users, with alternative crossing points as close to the original crossing as possible: any detour is likely to be a deterrent to users. Rights of way, including many being targeted in this scheme, form vital links within local communities for people going about their everyday business.
Read more on our policy here.
What we’re doing about it
Our plan of action to deal with this threat to the path network includes going beyond objecting to individual proposals. We are building a coalition with other path user organisations, including the British Horse Society and the Open Spaces Society, and we are speaking to relevant local authorities. They are also concerned about these proposals because Network Rail has chosen to try to use a legal process which involves the Secretary of State at the Department of Transport making orders to close these paths under the Transport and Works Act, rather than the more usual route which involves the local highway authority making orders.
We are seeking to meet with Network Rail and with Ministers, and will pursue legal advice on Network Rail’s intended approach to the closures. Volunteers have already begun the process of seeking support from local MPs.
If you live in East Anglia, there’s still time to respond to the consultations and to attend a consultation event with Ramblers volunteers and staff.
The consultation into these proposals ends in October, with each specific consultation closing 21 days after the consultation event has occurred.