The level crossing just outside St Albans Abbey station, where the footpath from Cotton Mill Lane crosses over, was monitored by Network Rail’s level crossing team for nine days in August, during which nearly 250 incidents of misuse were recorded. Among the 248 incidents recorded were crossing users wearing headphones or using mobile phones, which could prevent them from hearing an approaching train, groups of youths loitering on the tracks and even one young person sitting and lying down on the crossing.
Based on the evidence a decision was made for an emergency closure while Network Rail examined their options.
Gemma Duffy, route level crossing manager, said: “The high number of incidents of misuse raised serious concerns within our safety team, prompting the emergency closure of this crossing with immediate effect. Trains travel on this section of line at speeds of up to 50mph and because of the track layout and curvature, the visibility of an approaching train by anyone using the crossing is limited. We are committed to improving safety at level crossings wherever possible and we will work with the local authority and crossing users to improve safety at this crossing as soon as possible.”
The closure prompted an angry backlash from local residents, spearheaded by County Councillor for St Albans South, Sandy Walkington, who claimed that Network Rail had not been following the correct procedures, indeed they may even have acted illegally in closing the right of way.
On 9th September, after apparently bowing to public pressure, the crossing reopened but with a 20mph speed restriction in place for trains, rather than the usual 50mph, which unfortunately is now lengthening journey times by up to 2mins. It is thought that Network Rail and the County Council are looking at installation of a footbridge to permanently replace the crossing, a move which ABFLY would strongly welcome.