Crossing the line? Network Rail proposes to close or change up to 30 crossings in Suffolk

Mellis Road level crossing, which is not facing closure from Network Rail. ANL-160526-103745001
Mellis Road level crossing, which is not facing closure from Network Rail. ANL-160526-103745001

Dozens of rail crossings across Suffolk could be closed or changed in a bid improve safety and allow for faster, more frequent and reliable services in the future, Network Rail claims.

They are hosting three consultation events in Bury St Edmunds, Stowmarket and Ipswich to showcase their initial plans, which could see up to 30 level crossings in the county be altered or closed, none of which are public A or B roads. These mainly include footpaths and bridle ways in Suffolk, including in Gislingham, Mellis, Finningham and Bacton.

The crossings on this line are hugely out of date and Network Rail’s choice is to fit automated gates or shut them

Mike Carter, Suffolk Crossings

Fears were expressed in January 2015 over potential road level crossing closures on the Norwich to London mainline — at the time Rosie Carter, of the Suffolk Crossings group which opposed the plans, said it would have resulted in a “Berlin Wall 
across East Anglia.”

But her husband Mike, also of the group, told the Diss Express this week he believed accident rates could increase if any closures go ahead — which could force cyclists and horse riders onto the roads with trucks, motorcycles and 
lorries.

He added time and money would be lost as a a result.

“What I think has happened is that Network Rail tried to close the whole lot up, and now they are trying to close them down in smaller numbers to cut out the fuss,” he said.

“The crossings on this line are hugely out of date and Network Rail’s choice is to fit automated gates or shut them.”

Mr Carter urged the those opposing the proposed changes to attend the public consultation events to get their voices heard.

Richard Schofield, Network Rail’s route managing director for Anglia, said: “I’d encourage anyone interested to come along see our initial plans, ask our level crossings team questions and share any concerns or ideas with us.

“We know that public Rights of Way are an important part of country life in this region, and where possible, we will maintain this connectivity with the countryside, and in some cases will improve the Rights of Way network.

“Our plans to close level crossings propose small changes to how people cross the railway but the closures will help us reduce the risks that level crossings pose, improve safety and reliability of the railway for the future.”

Further consultation events will take place in the late summer. Closures, if agreed, would take place in 2018 and 2019.

Bury St Edmunds MP Joanna Churchill, whose constituency includes Bacton and Gislingham, has met with Network Rail to discuss the crossings.

She said: “I have been assured the crossings have been identified where road disruptions for motorists, can be avoided.

“Furthermore, in the interest of local people and as a public matter, all county councillors will be kept informed of the plans.”

The consultation sessions will be at St Edmundsbury Primary School, in Bury, on June 11 from 11am to 3pm, Stowmarket Community Centre on June 14 from 3pm to 8pm, and at Burlington Baptist Church on June 15 from 2pm to 7pm.

The crossings facing possible closure or alteration in the Diss Express area are: Gooderhams, Bacton; Fords Green, Bacton; Bacton footpath; Finningham footpath; Steggals, Finningham; Gislingham footpath; Paynes footpath, Gislingham; Cow Pasture Lane, Mellis; Rectory Road footpath, Mellis; Beecroft, Mellis; Abbotts footpath, Mellis.