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Thatcham town councillors question signal response

Councillors call for more pressure on Network Rail to resolve traffic congestion at barrier

John Herring

John Herring


01635 886633

Thatcham town councillors question signal response

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.

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Article comments

  • Thatchamite

    04/02/2021 - 13:57

    As a resident that has to cross over into Thatcham most days it is an inconvenience to be stuck for upto 30 minutes waiting for a sequence of trains to pass. But a bridge would create a huge volume of traffic using the route as a short cut to Basingstoke which would overwhelm Crookham Hill and create serious risk of accidents as lorries would flout any weight restrictions. However, what does need to be investigated is why the manual operation of the gates at Thatcham station is so inconsistent. It is well understood that differernt rolling stock takes differernt times to stop in an emergency BUT I have noticed that very often for the same sequence of trains sometimes the gates are raised but often they are just left down. This causes huge frustration and having a consistently enforced approach would I believe make a significant difference during busy times. Also I understood these gates were to be automated as part of the electrification but seems that didnt happen either,


  • CommonHungerforder

    04/02/2021 - 05:49

    I've worked with railways for 40 years. I am allowed to put MIRSE after my name. The town councilors' comments are not even amateur in nature, just f-ed up as usual. I can only assume they believe the railway uses some sort of traffic lights! What you could have is Ufton Nervet, as 39s for an AHB was OK, until people started committing suicide there. Please don't bother the crossing controller as he will be trying to minimize barriers down and doesn't need a load of jerks telling him how to do his job. Go back to wrecking the last bit of the A4 because you are REALLY GOOD at that. Take away the bus stop from outside the doctors' surgery to make it awkward for patients. Paint some more white lines with the 'free' money and screw up the trucks that are based in the town. Then look for a cyclist! Or is this all about the 2,500 homes? That's what it's about. Get them to pay for a bridge. Not Network Rail, the developer. But you don't have the balls. Never will.


  • NewburyResident

    03/02/2021 - 09:41

    Just shows the usual blithering idiot councillors that know bugger all but think they are always right!


    • hugie

      03/02/2021 - 15:38

      LMAO, yeah i think the councillors do NOT know how to run the council let alone a railway.


  • Exhausted

    03/02/2021 - 09:34

    Ignorant councillors who do not understand the operation and principles of railway train operation and signalling. The barriers are always down for the minimum amount of time to allow safe operation and speed. Perhaps they should arrange a visit to Colthrop Signal Box to see the process for themselves and gain an understanding of crossing operation. A bridge is the only solution that will eliminate waiting time. The usual question? Who is going to pay for it?


    • hugie

      03/02/2021 - 15:40

      good.... a bridge could probably be afforded by the developers of the housing, thats ear marked for the south side of the canal. maybe ask them. Oh and also ask them to pay for flood defences too.


      • NewburyLad

        03/02/2021 - 18:27

        Shame the ruling Lib Dem council didn't insist on a bridge when permission was given to turn the old army depot into housing. ...


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