New blow for Thatcham rail bridge campaigners
Network Rail rules out new bridge at Colthrop
DRIVERS stuck at Thatcham’s level crossing have suffered a further blow as Network Rail has ruled out an alternative site for a bridge.
Following questions from The Newbury Weekly News as to whether a bridge was likely to be built at the town’s main congestion point, Network Rail said that no opportunities to close the crossing had been presented.
West Berkshire Council added that a bridge would solve a “relatively local problem” and would only be built with significant private or government funds.
Thatcham town councillor Jeff Brooks (Lib Dem, Thatcham West), supported by residents contacting the paper, suggested that building a bridge at Colthrop be investigated instead.
But these hopes look unlikely to materialise.
A spokeswoman for Network Rail, Victoria Bradley, said that the company had considered replacing the Colthrop level crossing with a bridge, but abandoned the scheme because of the area’s “constrained” geography.
A cost for a Colthrop bridge was unavailable, owing to a bridge not being considered a viable option.
On hearing the news, Mr Brooks said: “I rather expected them to check it out more fully before ruling it out.
“If Network Rail have no interest, it’s not going to be built is it?
“We will have to carry on parking on the bridge, or lack of one, as it has been for many years.”
And following Network Rail being granted permission to build a bridge at the notorious crossing at Ufton Nervet, some residents questioned why £8m could be spent on a bridge there – rather than a cheaper option of installing full barriers – but there was no willingness for one at the busier crossing at Thatcham.
In 2004, seven people died and more than 120 were injured when a high-speed train hit a car which had been deliberately parked on the half-barrier crossing at Ufton Nervet.
Another four people have lost their lives at the crossing since then.
Mrs Bradley said it was a case of prioritising level crossings according to risk and, while usage formed part of this assessment, there were other factors involved such as the safety record and location.
“Thatcham is a full-barrier crossing with a warning lights system and as trains tend to stop at Thatcham, this also reduces the risk,” she said.
“On the other hand, Ufton Nervet is a half barrier crossing that since the collision in 2004 has become notorious as a place for people to try, and in some cases, succeed in taking their own life.
“While these are acts of deliberate misuse, this makes the crossing higher risk and the only way to minimise this particular risk as much as possible is to completely separate road and rail traffic at the site.”