Network Rail Public Inquiry - Essex Area Chairman’s Report December 2018
Hopefully you have kept up to date on the Network Rails Public Inquiry via our regular progress reports. These detailed how Network Rail intend, via Transport and Works Orders, closing 130 level crossings in East Anglia and close or divert the public rights of ways (PROWs) which use these crossings. Over 60 crossings are in Essex and Hertfordshire. It was clear to us that if approved, these orders would have a destructive effect on our PROW network, restrict public access to the countryside and pose health and safety issues with respect to walking the diversions. In short it undermined Ramblers charitable objectives to provide and protect footpaths for the benefit of the public. So concerned were Ramblers and local authorities at Network Rails proposals that formal objections were lodged with the Secretary of State for Transport in 2017, resulting in Public Inquiry’s in Cambridgeshire, Suffolk and Essex.
Now after a yearlong adjournment – due to Network Rail’s failure to follow due process - the bulk of the evidence has been given and it is expected the Essex Inquiry will conclude in February/March 2019 with onsite visits by the Government appointed Inspector accompanied by Ramblers and Network Rail representatives. Final submissions will be lodged leaving the Inspector to make his recommendations to the Secretary of State. Hopefully Ramblers will be advised of a positive outcome sometime in late 2019 – note that both the decisions from the Suffolk and Cambridgeshire Inquires are still to be published.
To think it was over 4 years ago that Network Rail advised Ramblers of its intention to close a number of level crossings on the pretext that ‘Level crossings collectively pose the greatest risk to safety on the railway network. To reduce this risk, Network Rail is working to reduce the number of level crossings.’ This was misleading. Network Rails own data shows this not to be the case.
We, the Ramblers, have vigorously challenged Network Rail, in the Inquiry, on matters to do with safety, costs and efficiency and the ‘suitability and convenience’ of the proposed diversions. It’s been a long and time consuming process. Soon we will move onto other matters of importance to Essex Ramblers such as the Lower Thames Crossing, A12 developments and of course keeping our footpaths open for all to use.
Once again, a big thank you goes to all who contributed an enormous amount of time and energy and to those Groups who donated to the campaign. Merrow Golden, our barrister also deserves a mention for her thoroughness and quiet persistence in ensuring our case was well presented.
Details of the Inquiry can be found on the web site HERE