Wed, 19 Apr 2017
MORE trains are likely to be passing through Thatcham when electrification comes to West Berkshire – which could mean further delays at the notorious level crossing.
Network Rail said that extra measures to mitigate traffic at the crossing could be introduced in order to cope with new trains on the line if that proves to be the case.
Network Rail is in the process of electrifying the Great Western route, with the aim of providing faster and more reliable services to Devon and Cornwall.
At the same time, Great Western Railway has started rolling out its fleet of Intercity Express electric trains.
The Hitachi 800 series is scheduled to be introduced into passenger service on the Great Western Main Line later this year and, from 2018, on services between London and Devon and Cornwall.
The new trains will be longer and provide more frequent services, however, meaning the already-congested crossing could be down for longer periods.
A GWR spokesman said that the new Intercity trains were likely to result in one extra service an hour on the route.
But as it stands, Network Rail is yet to assess the impact of the new trains on the crossing.
A Network Rail spokesman said: “We are currently looking into any potential impact that the arrival of the new fleet of GWR Intercity Express electric trains coming into service in December 2018 could have on congestion at Thatcham station level crossing.
“If findings suggest that there could be a detrimental impact on traffic, we will look into mitigation measures where possible to alleviate congestion.”
Motorists frequently vent their frustration over Thatcham’s level crossing, sometimes being stuck in traffic for more than 20 minutes, and calls for a bridge to replace it have increased in recent years.
Proposals for two bridges over the railway line and canal were revealed by this newspaper in 2015.
However, the Colthrop Village Consortium withdrew the plans because the site was not included in West Berkshire’s Development Plan document, which identifies preferred sites for development.
And last year, local resident Christie Morris launched a petition calling for a bridge, saying that one would be needed if planning appeals for up to 725 homes in the town were approved on appeal.
Proposals to build up to 2,000 homes at Sandleford Park in Newbury would also add to the problem, she said.
Network Rail and West Berkshire Council both said that a bridge, costing in excess of £20m, would need to be funded by the Government or a developer.
Town and district councillors also raised concerns that a bridge would open up Crookham Hill to HGVs and lead to development south of the railway line.
Other efforts to reduce congestion included West Berkshire Council reducing the size of the layby in Station Road to provide extra carriageway space. A new right-hand turn lane into the Royal Mail sorting office was also created.