Network Rail plans to improve safety at a level crossing on a 90mph railway line in north Kent.
Due to a number of high-risk incidents, the crossing, in the village of Bobbing near Sittingbourne, was closed in March 2021 under an emergency temporary closure order; many of the incidents involved children.
The crossing is also known as ‘Simpsons’. It is on the busy Victoria to Ramsgate line, which sees 183 trains travelling each day at high speed. Around 110 people use the crossing each day, including many vulnerable users such as children, dog walkers, the elderly, those with pushchairs, and cyclists.
There is a significant history of incidents and misuse of the crossing. Since the start of 2017, 43 incidents have been picked up by sensors, cameras, rail staff, or train drivers, seven of which resulted in train drivers having to apply emergency brakes. There have also been two deaths at the crossing in recent years.
The temporary closure order was put in place after an application to Kent County Council, whilst a safer, permanent alternative could be progressed. After liaison with Kent County Council Highways and National Highways (previously Highways England), an alternative route has been proposed.
Kent County Council approved the temporary closure whilst a safer, permanent alternative could be progressed. After liaison with Kent County Council Highways and National Highways (previously Highways England), an alternative route has been proposed that uses a designated path to the Sheppey Road overbridge, and protects the public from the railway.
The plans include improvements to the pavements along the new route, and new pavements and other pedestrian and mobility-friendly features to be installed on Sheppey Way.
At a public meeting in Bobbing village hall on Friday 8th October, Network Rail’s level crossings team presented the proposals to residents, then listened to feedback and answered questions. There will be a further public meeting in approximately two weeks’ time.
Network Rail Route Director for Kent, Fiona Taylor, said: “The Simpsons Crossing in Bobbing is on a fast line and on a curve meaning it does not have adequate visibility each way for users. A study we conducted found in just two years over forty incidents occurred which posed a risk to life, including ones which involved train drivers having to apply their emergency brakes.
“We have therefore signalled our intention to permanently close the crossing and move to an alternative pavement route via the Sheppey Way.
“We would like to work as closely as possible with the local community on implementing the alternative which will be safer and lower the risk to life.”
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