Safety fear over Saltney rail improvement plan


Romilly Scragg

COMMUNITY leaders have reacted with disbelief at a public consultation on railway improvements.

Works to upgrade links between Wrexham and Chester will include alterations to the Green Lane level crossing in Saltney.

Network Rail held a four-hour drop-in consultation event into the proposed changes at Sandy Lane Community Centre in Saltney.

But town councillors said they were shocked to learn planned changes did not include any realignment of the road that crosses the track.

Members have campaigned for years for the road to be straightened because bends near the approach have caused large vehicles such as buses and lorries to become stranded on the track. 

The problem has become worse in recent years because of a large increase in traffic levels.

And while councillors welcomed plans announced last year by Welsh transport secretary Edwina Hart to double the existing single railway line, the electrification of the track has heightened fears about safety.

Speaking at the consultation, Cllr Derrick Beddow expressed disbelief that Network Rail and Welsh Government representatives present seemed to know “very little” about long-standing safety concerns.

“I’m absolutely disgusted,” he said.

“The crossing is not going to be widened at all. It’s going to be exactly as it is.

“There are going to be new gates and a radar, but it won’t be widened so they’re not going to obviate the problem.

“It’s diabolical.”

Flintshire Council member for Saltney Stonebridge, Cllr Veronica Gay, said while communication at Network Rail was a problem, ultimately, she said, the crossing was a road issue for Cheshire West and Chester Council (CWaC).

Cllr Gay said the community council had been trying to get the problem sorted out since 2007.

In 2008 officers from Network Rail, CWaC and Railway Safety Enforcement visited the site and agreed there was a problem and councillors were told the road would be realigned when planned track improvements went ahead.

“They know about all the near misses,” she said.

“They’ve had meetings about it. They’re supposed to be doing something about it.”

A Network Rail spokesman said “some improvement work” would take place to the profile of the road.

“At Green Lane the work will see the half-barrier removed and a full-barrier crossing with obstacle detection installed.

“Full barriers block the full width of the road which prohibit motorists crossing until the barriers are completely lifted.

“As part of the work at Green Lane level crossing, we also plan to undertake some improvement work to the profile of the road that approaches the crossing.

“We anticipate undertaking the work to Green Lane level crossing between September 2014 and February 2015.”

CWaC spokesman Rachel Ashley said the council was working closely with Network Rail. 

“We’ve never considered realignment of the road to be necessary,” she said.

A Welsh Government spokesman said Network Rail had been asked for “a full explanation of this issue”.

See full story in the Leader

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