Ramblers volunteers in Essex are celebrating this month after saving 18 level crossings from closure. This follows our successes in 2020 where we stopped Network Rail from closing 16 important crossings in Suffolk and Cambridgeshire.
Network Rail applied to the Secretary of State for an order made under the Transport and Works Act 1992 to close 60 level crossings in Essex. You can read more about level crossing closures and our position.
Tom Platt, Ramblers' Director of Operations and Advocacy, said of the result “This is a significant victory for the Ramblers. We couldn’t have saved these crossings in East Anglia without the persistence and dedication of our local path volunteers. Our volunteers should be proud of what they’ve achieved here.”
Essex Area Ramblers objected to 29 of the closures with support from Ramblers staff. A tremendous amount of time was spent gathering evidence and writing statements for the Inquiry. Ramblers appointed barrister Merrow Golden to represent us at the Inquiry which stretched over a whopping 48 days. Between the close of the Inquiry and the Secretary of State’s decision, Network Rail withdrew their request to close four of the crossings (including two that the Ramblers had objected to).
The Inspector recommended that a further 16 crossing closures Ramblers had objected to be excluded from the order made by the Secretary of State, thus saving a total of 18 crossings in Essex area.
Alan Goffee, Uttlesford Ramblers Footpath Secretary, commented on the decision:
“It seems a lifetime ago, but it was only 2016 when Network Rail decided to embark on a programme of pedestrian level crossing closures in Essex.
Some of the crossings had already been replaced by bridges, been shut for many years but not formally closed, or were only used by farmers or other private persons, but the majority required diversions. A few of these were a short distance from another crossing point but very many were longer distances, or were proposed being on less favourable surfaces or environment.
At the public inquiry, although the Ramblers had legal representation, local members worked hard to detail our objections and, under cross-examination, put the case for each crossing. This was an Essex-wide effort, backed up by great support from Central Office.
It is also important to note that although most of the crossings in this proposal were within Essex Area, nine were across the border in Hertfordshire. David Glass of Herts Ramblers made a forceful and passionate case for H05 Pattens (and H09 Fowlers), which was also saved.
This is a good result for walkers and to the many local members who put a lot of time and energy into protecting these crossings. We should all give a big thank you. That may not be the way Network Rail sees it, but we should all feel proud that we stood up for what we believed in”
Of the eight proposed closures in Uttlesford, Ramblers objected to and saved three crossings:
- Dixies crossing is in the centre of Newport and had been shut by Network Rail in 2017 because a member of the public reported concerns "around vulnerable users”. This was well used by walkers and its reopening will be a welcome boost to everyone including the Coach and Horses pub nearby.
- Fullers End is another well used crossing and follows the historic route of a path in place before the railway. The Inspector concluded that the proposed alternative route might restrict access for some groups of users with limited mobility.
- Littlebury Gate House was proposed to be replaced with a “circuitous and counterintuitive” route on country lanes that the majority of users would find “highly inconvenient”, according to the Secretary of State’s Inspector.
Mags Hobby, Footpath Secretary for Colchester, was “delighted with the outcome”.
“The three crossing closures we wanted to save will all remain open. The much-used local route in Wivenhoe, Paget Road, and the two crossings on the Sudbury train line at Thornfield Wood and Golden Square.” She also added that “it was particularly encouraging that our arguments about the alternatives being considerably more dangerous were highlighted.
Although the result is considered a great success, there have been some disappointments. Jeffery Coe, who was Footpath Secretary for Tendring District at the time, welcomed the news that E45 High Elm would be saved but was disappointed that “walkers will lose two crossings at Great Bentley (E46 Lords and E45 Great Bentley Station), which will add a considerable distance to a walk from that end of Great Bentley green if heading south towards Aingers Green".
Read more about level crossing closures and our position.