Dozens of radio masts to be installed

DOZENS of new digital radio masts are set to be installed across Suffolk over the next few years – and there's nothing planning authorities can do about it.

DOZENS of new digital radio masts are set to be installed across Suffolk over the next few years – and there's nothing planning authorities can do about it.

Network Rail plans to install the masts beside rail lines across the county to enable train drivers to talk directly to signallers wherever they are.

And because they are safety equipment being installed on railway property, they do not require planning permission.

"We have a requirement to install these masts as part of our safety enhancements," said a spokeswoman for Network Rail.

"As such they are permitted development. We don't need planning permission although we will consult local authorities before they are installed."

The masts are 30 metres high and many will be installed on stations – but the company is confident they will not pose any safety hazard.

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"They are well below the recommended safe limit, and they are set up in such a way that they transmit along a narrow band covering the rail line itself.

"These transmitters will only be used for rail communications and will improve safety significantly."

At present there are blackspots on the rail network where trains lose touch with signallers.

In places drivers have to rely on trackside phone – that is no longer acceptable in the wake of safety inquiries following recent accidents.

Bury St Edmunds MP David Ruffley, whose constituency includes Stowmarket and Needham Market, has been a critic of mobile phone companies who have put up masts in rural areas.

"I shall be contacting Network Rail to find out if theses masts, which are quite substantial, are really necessary – or is there another solution?" he said.

"Safety is of course vital on the railway – but we have to know whether Network Rail has to put up such large masts across the county."

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