Wed, 03 Feb 2021
Thatcham councillors have asked for pressure to be applied on resolving barrier downtime at the level crossing.
Town councillors met with GWR and Network Rail in October to draw up action points for the station and level crossing.
Long barrier closure times were listed, with the crossing often closed for three trains to pass and a solution of relocating the trip points to reduce the duration was proposed.
Network Rail responded saying that it would not be a viable option.
It said that if closing the crossing was delayed, train drivers would see cautionary or stop lights for the crossing, which would be "against the principle of keeping trains running on green signals wherever possible as it would make journeys longer with more braking".
It added that altering the crossing closure sequence further would be counterproductive, as trains would approach the crossing on caution, resulting in gains being lost.
Network Rail said that re-positioning signals closer together would be "a massive project and would design in other risks, such as trains passing red signals from inconsistent signal spacing".
Discussing the response at a town council meeting last week, Richard Foster (Lib Dem, Thatcham Colthrop and Crookham) said the company had missed the point.
He said: "The signals are at different distances from the level crossing on each side.
"The signals approaching from Newbury are further away from the ones approaching from Reading.
"If the signalling was the same distance they [the train drivers] would see the same things they do from Reading.
"I think they are answering something different there and not the point we made.
"All we are saying is the signalling coming from Newbury is further away."
Richard Crumly (Con, Thatcham Central) said he wanted the town council to put more pressure on Network Rail to improve the barrier downtime.
He said: "I, like everyone else, have been waiting at the crossing for some time and then you wait absolutely ages for a train to come along.
"It can't be beyond the realm of man to come up with another system to bring the barriers down with a minute to go."
Town council leader David Lister (Lib Dem, Thatcham West) said that further problems awaited with plans for 2,500 homes being drawn up for the town.
He said: "I think it's part of West Berkshire Council's responsibility as well to do what they can to resolve the congestion and problems that we have at the crossing.
"Clearly it's not right for Thatcham residents to have these problems and then be expected to face further congestion with 2,500 houses."
Mr Lister added that he wanted to see the detail for how the crossing would be addressed given the size and scale of the development proposed.
Councillors also raised the lack of a lift to enable people with wheelchairs or pushchairs to cross the track without having to wait for barriers.
Installing a lift has been estimated to cost £1m, which Mr Foster said he found hard to believe as a new footbridge was installed a few years ago.
He said: "The bridge was designed and installed with the lift shaft in place,
"I think it's the same design as the one in Newbury.
"It seems hard to arrive at that sum when there's a bridge that's already provided for it."
Concern was raised that the barriers could be down longer if signalling was controlled from Didcot rather than Colthrop.
Network Rail said it had no plans to close the Colthrop signal box in its current plans up to 2024, and it was not in its developing plan up to 2029.