Network Rail doesn’t like level crossings. They are difficult to manage, and present a danger to travellers if they are abused. They are a weak link onto the railway line, where the rest of the line is usually fortified or protected to prevent casual access.
Local communities often do not like level crossings either. In busy locations like Wokingham Station main roads are blocked for more than half the time at peaks, as the barriers come down to let a train in or out of the station, or remain down because a train is at a platform. Our roads are completely inadequate for the peaks to start with, without losing their capacity altogether every time a train arrives or departs.
As a result, there is a programme to replace level crossings with bridges. I have been one of its supporters, and have wanted to see more money spent on bringing about these changes. If you observe the morning peak from the air in much of our country, you see completely congested main roads, relatively empty railway lines given the restraints on train use of track, and maximum congestion at points on the road network where traffic is trying to get across the railway. There are too few bridges.
yesterday I talked to representatives of Network Rail about our local plight in Wokingham. The much sought after new road bridge still has not got off the drawing board, though it is now on the planning map and there is agreement by both Council and Network Rail that it is needed. The temporary footbridge over the railway is an ugly and poor structure which we would all like to see replaced as soon as possible with the promised smarter new permanent bridge.
I want to see the government’s investment plans this Autumn include local transport improvements. We could have a safer railway and a less congested road system if more is done to speed the removal of level crossings and their replacement with bridges and tunnels.