Right of way must be kept open at all costs

SURELY the answer to the worries over the danger children face crossing the Ipswich-Felixstowe railway line on the way to school is pretty simple.

It’s certainly not spending �1.4 million on a bridge across the track.

And it’s definitely not getting rid of the footpath, wiping an ancient right of way off the map.

Both of these are being seriously considered – one a way of helping the students get to the new academy safely when it is built; the other removing the problem altogether.

The easiest way of solving the problem – and a lot less than �1.4m – would be either to pay a teacher, or another member of staff, a bit extra twice a day to stand by the crossing and ensure the youngsters don’t fool around on the line, or to put a red and green light crossing system in place, or eigh feet talk razor wire-topped gates that lock when a train is approaching.

The school believes home-school contract with parents made to stop their kids using the line, plus a bus (to help those faced with a longer walk) and a bit of extra fencing should be enough. They could well be right.

The foot crossing over the track runs from off Runnacles Way to the Hawkes Lane footpath, which leads from the playing field at the back of the academy’s Maidstone Campus (the old Orwell High School) round the edge of the sports field and a cornfield down to Walton High Street.

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I could not believe it when I read in a council report that one idea under consideration is to close the path completely – forcing the youngsters, and everyone else who might want to use it to walk between Walton and Orwell Green, into a mile detour.

But the thought of closing a right of way is abhorrent.

There is rarely a good reason – if ever – for getting rid of a path, and thankfully it is a very difficult process and walkers are always ready to stand up for their rights and fight their corner.

This path is likely to have been walked by people of the Walton area for hundreds of years – to reach fields where they worked, Lower Walton, the river, and for recreation.

I walked it the other day, reaching it after coming across the A14 Port of Felixstowe Road footbridge from Trimley, heading up through the estate, following a series of walkways to reach the railway crossing and then the footpath to Walton.

It is a vital link for the area and under no circumstances must it be lost.

If the sponsors of the dock spur traffic lights scheme managed to put traffic lights in to keep a little-used footpath, there must be a way to protect this one – and a cheaper way, too.