Wed, 01 Jul 2020
DATA monitoring Thatcham level crossing’s downtime and traffic has not shown “any clear trends towards longer queue length”, but it did record a queue of nearly a kilometre long.
A new timetable covering the Great Western network came into operation in December last year, adding more trains between Newbury and London Paddington.
West Berkshire Council assessed traffic on both sides of the crossing and monitored its downtime before and after the timetable change.
The surveys taken before the timetable change recorded between 86 and 92 barrier closings a day during the weekday monitoring hours.
And for most of the day the crossing barriers were down between 25 and 35 minutes each hour.
The survey was conducted between 5.30pm and 8.30pm from November 30, 2019, for seven days.
The highest hourly combined closure time recorded was 44 minutes and nine seconds between 4pm and 5pm on Thursday, December 5.
The longest single closure period recorded was 19 minutes and 10 seconds on Tuesday, December 3, between 11.09am and 11.28am.
The longest queues for both northbound and southbound traffic often occurs in the late afternoon peak period, with the longer southbound queues occurring between 4pm and 5pm and the longer northbound queues between 5pm and 6pm.
Following the introduction of the new timetable, the council returned to monitor the situation for seven days starting on March 7.
The weekday surveys recorded between 87 and 93 barrier closings a day during the monitoring hours.
The highest hourly combined closure time recorded was 42 minutes and 13 seconds outside the peak times, between 11am and noon, on Thursday, March 12.
The council said this was due to “minor delays and an additional excursion service travelling along the line that day”.
The longest individual closure period recorded was 14 minutes and 52 seconds between 6.44pm and 6.59pm on Tuesday, March 10.
A northbound queue of 970m on March 12 was the longest recorded by either survey, but the council said that “comparisons of queue lengths for both before and after data does not show any clear trends towards longer queue lengths as a result of the new timetable”.
Again, the longest traffic queues occurred in the late afternoon peak period, with the longer southbound queues occurring between 4pm and 5pm and the longer northbound queues between 5pm and 6pm.
The March surveys were carried out before the Government’s travel advice regarding Covid-19 and the lockdown announcement of March 23.
Thatcham Town Council leader David Lister (Lib Dem, Thatcham West) said: “The survey confirms what most residents of Thatcham experience.
“With up to nine barrier closures per hour, a crossing that is closed for more than 40 minutes in the hour, and queues recorded that approach a kilometre in length, gridlock is a regular occurrence within Thatcham.
“This is also becoming a significant safety issue – minor accidents have already occurred at the crossing and I fear that something much more serious is likely.
“I hope the transport officers and Network Rail reflect on this survey and agree that a new crossing is urgently required.”
The survey information will feed into a larger traffic model for the town, which will assess potential transport improvements and the impact of potential developments being proposed.
The data showed a slight increase in the hourly trains passing through Thatcham, equating to 15 additional trains over the course of a typical weekday.
However, it does not include freight services as they have no fixed pattern and use routes when required.
The surveys were conducted using cameras to record timings for the closing and opening of the level crossing barriers throughout the day.
Further cameras were installed along the approach roads on both sides of the crossing to monitor the length of queuing traffic as a result of the crossing barriers being closed.