Second plea to rail crossing drivers

RAIL chiefs today pleaded with motorists not to play Russian Roulette at a Suffolk level crossing.Frustrated motorists have again been seen weaving between the closed barriers at Westerfield crossing as they have been forced to wait for up to 15 minutes for them to open.

RAIL chiefs today pleaded with motorists not to play Russian Roulette at a Suffolk level crossing.

Frustrated motorists have again been seen weaving between the closed barriers at Westerfield crossing as they have been forced to wait for up to 15 minutes for them to open.

Yesterday's incident comes just six weeks after a similar problem led to motorists dicing with death at the crossing.

Motorist Susan Whiting said yesterday's problem was the latest in a series of delays she has suffered over the last few months.

She said: "I got there just after 8am and there were already about 10 cars in front of me.

"The barriers stayed down for another 15 minutes - we got going again at 8.16 - and during that time I saw several drivers weave between the barriers.

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"It's totally unacceptable to block an important road like that for so long - people do get very irritated waiting for a train which doesn't go through."

David Cass, a warranty controller from Ipswich who drives to work in Otley each day, was also delayed and was shocked to see motorists driving through the crossing while the barriers were down.

"It seems a ludicrous thing to do," he said.

He added: "To my way of thinking that train is a hell of a lot bigger than I am and there's no way I am going to risk that.

"If an express train is coming along there's no way you want to be in the path of that."

Laura Dobson from Network Rail said there was no problem with the crossing - it was activated when a train passed sensors on the track nearby.

She said: "If there are on-going frequent problems with the crossing we may have to look at it again.

"The half-barriers that we have there at present are the quickest to activate, so cause the least disruption to road traffic."

Safety was the top priority for the rail company, and there were no circumstances under which drivers should weave between the crossing gates.

"However if the crossing is regularly abused by motorists weaving between the barriers that is a serious safety concern and we might have to replace them with CCTV-monitored full barriers.

"They cause much more disruption and would be down for much longer at a time."

She said it was not feasible to replace the crossing with a bridge.

"A new bridge at that location would cost between £3 million and £4 million, and could not be justified on cost grounds," she said.

However Mrs Whiting felt if there was much more disruption at the crossing, drivers would switch to using other smaller roads which were not as suitable for the large amount of traffic that uses the B1077 from Ipswich to Westerfield, Helmingham and Debenham.

Mr Cass said: "I can't see there's any excuse for motorists being held up for that period of time. Some people in that situation will take unnecessary risks."

Opinion - see page 6.

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