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Needham Market: Residents fears over proposals for crossing which was scene of rail death

PUBLISHED: 06:00 22 March 2014

Network Rail wants to close the rail crossing Gypsy Lane in Needham Market but its plans have come underfire

Network Rail wants to close the rail crossing Gypsy Lane in Needham Market but its plans have come underfire

Archant

A group of residents claim they are not being listened to as proposals to build a footbridge over a busy railway line face criticism.

About 15 people went to have their voices heard at a Needham Market Town Council meeting over concerns Network Rail has carried out an “inadequate” consultation on the proposals at the Gipsy Lane level crossing in the town.

An 82-year-old woman died when she was walking across the tracks at the crossing in August 2011.

Network Rail said it recognised the “local debate” about the footbridge but added that it would continue to work closely with the planning authority, Mid Suffolk District Council.

During the town council meeting on Wednesday night, a man referred to as Dr Flowers, said he was speaking on behalf of a number of his neighbours who live close to the “high risk” crossing.

He said: “The footbridge would be a burden to aged and infirm dog walkers. Most of them could not face going up the 36 steps and down the 36 steps.

“It would a terrible blot, not just on Gypsy Lane but on the Gipping Valley itself.

“We feel that Network Rail have failed to take the other options seriously.

“We have not been adequately consulted with.

“There was a public meeting on November 13, it was a bit of a charade; the spokesman was not there, his deputy was, but the Powerpoint presentation was not there.

“It was fairly obvious that they had made up their minds already.”

A Network Rail spokeswoman said it was “committed” to closing the crossing and providing an alternative route over the railway.

She said: “We are currently pursuing plans to construct a stepped footbridge at the crossing and divert the rights of way, currently passing over the crossing to the new bridge.

“We recognise that there has been much debate locally about the footbridge, so we continue to work closely with the local planning authority.

“Furthermore, we plan to announce the work programme later in the spring.

“Again, we would like to thank the local community for their patience and understanding on this issue.”

Suffolk County Council, which is responsible for rights of way, said it wants to see an “accessible” railway crossing and would pursue an option to build an underpass which has been considered in the past.

The county council and Network Rail are due to meet later this month to discuss the crossing.

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