Over the last year Ramblers volunteers in Essex, Hertfordshire, Cambridgeshire and Suffolk have been busy responding to Network Rail’s proposed plans to close 130 level crossings across East Anglia. Thanks to their hard work, 22 have already been removed from the closure programme.
These 22 crossings are now safe from closure, but we’re still working to ensure that the proposals for the other 108 crossings give walkers the best possible outcome.
The first public inquiry into these closures, for Essex, Hertfordshire and London Borough of Havering, started on 18 October 2017. As of 20th October, it was adjourned, due to a procedural technicality. It will re-convene on 25 September 2018.
Ramblers volunteers and local residents will be giving evidence at the inquiry to ensure that the views of walkers and local people are taken into account.
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We know that Network Rail is concerned about the safety of level crossings, but we feel that they haven’t properly considered the safety of people walking along diversions on busy roads instead. We think there are other ways of making crossings safer, such as installing bridges and warning lights.
Lots of local people use these level crossings every day – to get to work, shops, school. These closures will sever local footpath networks and communities.
The Cambridgeshire inquiry started on 28 November 2017 and concluded in February 2018. The Suffolk inquiry started on 13 February 2018 and is due to finish in May.
The Secretary of State for Transport will make the final decision on the closure proposals. It's uncertain when this will be - it could be after all inquiries have finished.
In February 2017 Vanessa Griffiths, Ramblers chief executive, met with Richard Schofield, Network Rail’s route managing director for Anglia region, to discuss our concerns about the closures and the way the consultation was carried out.
We will continue working collaboratively with Network Rail to ensure that any path diversions resulting from crossing closures, now and in the future, are safe and suitable for walkers.
Other path-user organisations, such as the British Horse Society and Open Spaces Society, have also expressed concerns about the closures. Together, we’ve been speaking to local authorities about their response to Network Rail’s plans. Many of our committed Ramblers volunteers have also been gathering support from their local MPs.
It received a huge amount of support. This helped show Network Rail that we represent walkers and that we can all benefit from working together.
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