Network Rail plans risk fragmenting the path network

Our volunteers across Essex, Hertfordshire, Suffolk and Cambridgeshire are responding to proposals being put forward by Network Rail for the closure of 130 level crossings in the 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 and will be affected by these closures, we want to hear from you. Will closing a crossing affect your walk to work? Are there local businesses which will suffer from reduced footfall? Will it mean a long detour for children on their way to and from school?

We understand that Network Rail is planning to roll out this programme across the country. We'd also like to hear from you if you live elsewhere but have heard about planned closures of level crossings in your region.

For more information and any questions, please contact our senior policy officer Janet Davis (


Dominic Pinto

There doesn't appear to have been anything substantive further on this, tho' useful discussion on Ramblers-Net of course.

1 There has though been activity around the country that may be of use / interest

2 The autumn edition of Open Space references their deep concern about the use of Transport and Works Act 1992 to close around 130 crossings in East Anglia. Highlighted are unlawful closures using no procedures of Ely footpaths 17 and 57 that cross the Ely-Norwich railway.

3 From Network Rail

East Coast Main Line level crossing closure study

Delivering a safer, more efficient and reliable railway

The feasibility study into closing level crossings on the East Coast Main Line between London and Doncaster as part of our commitment to deliver a safer, more efficient and reliable railway ended on 6 June 2015.

The results of the survey were extremely helpful and we would like to re-iterate our appreciation to all those who contributed. The results have allowed us to develop a preferred option for each crossing and a detailed understanding of the steps that would be required to close them, as well as the impact these closures would have on the communities nearby.

Based on the information we have gathered, we have decided not to go ahead with a single programme of level crossing closures. Instead we will take a case-by-case approach, looking to close level crossings as part of other planned improvement work over the next five-year funding period (2019-2024) and beyond, or where an opportunity for closure becomes apparent due to development activity in surrounding areas.

It is our intention, where possible, to update you towards the end of this year on which level crossings may be subject to further work with a view to closure. In the meantime if you have any questions, please contact the Network Rail National Helpline on 03457 11 41 41 or by emailing CRNE@... quoting "East Coast Main Line level crossing closures".
Documents archive

To view the documents which were presented as part of the feasibility study, visit our consultation archive.
National level crossing risk reduction programme

The aim of our national level crossing risk reduction programme is to close level crossings where possible to make the railway safer for both road and rail users, as well as communities living close to the railway. As part of this programme, we are committing £96m of investment over the next four years to reduce the risk of accidents at level crossings, in addition to the 25% reduction in risk achieved between 2009 and 2014.You can read more about the programme by visiting our level crossings pages.

On this Martin Wyman commented 'The East Coast update was useful. Doncaster Ramblers were involved in the consultations concerning crossings south of Doncaster and I wondered why it had all gone quiet. It seems we don't have to worry about the crossings north of Doncaster for a while! But I am surprised, because the new trains with better acceleration are expected in 2 years time.'

4 There's also a spreadsheet of closures dated to May 2016