Fury as the gates come down

NETWORK Rail has been accused of “cowardice” after Frinton's historic level crossing gates were removed under cover of darkness just hours before a planned demonstration calling for them to stay.

NETWORK Rail has been accused of “cowardice” after Frinton's historic level crossing gates were removed under cover of darkness just hours before a planned demonstration calling for them to stay.

The company dismantled and took away the iconic manually-operated railway gates at around 2am on Saturday morning shortly after the replacement of signalling equipment at the station began.

The company, which operates the UK's rail infrastructure, said that it had informed locals that work on the crossing would take place this weekend.

But when more than 100 local people arrived to protest against the gates' removal at 10am they were shocked and saddened to see they had already been taken from their historic setting.

They had hoped to see the gates officially closed for the last time at 10.30am.

Mayor of Frinton and Walton Terry Allen described Network Rail as acting like “thieves in the night” in removing the gates in the early hours.

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Mr Allen, who has been involved in the campaign to save the gates for two years, said: “This is typical of the way Network Rail have behaved throughout this whole thing.

“Throughout the whole process they have relied on using sleight of hand instead of being straightforward.

“This is the sort of thing that happens in the third world, or in South American countries. It's a disgrace that it should happen here in England. It's cowardice.”

Network Rail removed the manually-operated gates as part of an ongoing multi-million pound modernisation of the Clacton branch line.

But in the 150 years since they were installed the gates have become such a symbol of Frinton - even immortalised on the town's coat of arms - that when the plan was announced local people immediately formed a campaign group, the Frinton Gates Preservation Society (FGPS), to try and save them.

But a spokeswoman for Network Rail said that the gates had to be removed as soon as possible after Friday's last train in order to complete the work on time.

“Network Rail notified residents that work would take place this weekend.

“The replacement of the level crossing was the first job in a major modernisation of this line and to fit all this in the work commenced as soon as the last train went through on Friday evening.

“The original gates will be saved and eventually mounted at the entrance to the town.”

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