Parishioners may recall that in November 2009, Network Rail closed Shornemead Level Crossing without any prior consultation or notice. It wasn’t until 2016 that the crossing was reopened, following a great deal of work by members of the Parish Council to ensure that the crossing was recognised as a public right of way.
As a result of irresponsible behaviour of a number of individuals, including widely publicised CCTV footage of an incident in October this year where a youth on a motorcycle narrowly escaped being hit by a train, Network Rail has obtained permission from Kent County Council for an emergency closure of Shornemead level crossing. Shorne Parish Council was neither consulted nor informed about this.
Network Rail state that there has been a considerable number of ‘near miss’ incidents since the crossing was reopened in 2016. As a result of this, in September this year they installed covert cameras at the crossing. The results were alarming. In the first couple of weeks of the cameras going live, footage of two near miss events was recorded, including the incident mentioned above. In addition there were numerous other examples of users crossing with motorbikes, despite it being a pedestrian-only crossing. With a 70mph line speed and 183 trains a day passing over the crossing, including during the hours of darkness, they considered that the crossing posed an unacceptably high level of risk to both users of the public footpath and to train operations, and this led to Network Rail’s emergency closure of the crossing.
Network Rail inform us that they will be using the 6 month closure period to examine their current risk mitigation measures and to develop an option for permanently stopping up and diverting the crossing, possibly using a pedestrian footbridge. That is clearly the Parish Council’s preferred choice in order to maintain a safe, public right of way, and we shall be pressing for this option.