We have just received the following from Network Rail as an update on the two level crossings that have been closed
I know these footpaths are valued by the community, particularly as they provide access to beautiful countryside and sit on frequently used walking routes. I recognise their closure will be inconvenient for local people, for which I’m sorry. We want to be good neighbours and help the communities we serve enjoy the countryside near their homes. But we must balance this with the need to keep the public safe.
Level crossings are inherently dangerous and our regulator, the Office of Road and Rail, encourages us to close them wherever possible. Where it’s not possible to close a crossing, we do all we can to reduce the risk they represent. Below I’ve gone into more detail about the situation at each crossing.
As you know, New River footpath is a private crossing owned by Thames Water. We understand that they’ve allowed the public to use the crossing although there are no public rights of way over it. There was recently a fatality at this crossing, which was shortly followed by a near miss (incidents where users are almost hit by trains).
After every accident or near miss at a level crossing, we carry out a risk assessment to determine whether any changes are necessary to avoid a repeat. Having reassessed the New River crossing we concluded that the only way to reduce the risk to the public it represents is to temporarily close it. We’re working closely with Thames Water to determine how this crossing can be made safe. A decision to reopen the crossing will need to be supported by a thorough risk assessment.
Kings Mead (on Public Footpath 32)
We reassessed the safety of the Kings Mead level crossing in light of the fatality and near miss at New River. This assessment concluded that this crossing should also be closed because it wasn’t in a condition that was safe for public use.
We’ve started work on a range of improvements to make this crossing safer. This work and another risk assessment of the crossing are due to be completed by mid-September, after which we plan to reopen the crossing. ... , Senior Public Affairs Manager for the railway in this area, will keep you updated on this work at Kings Mead as well as on progress with the New River crossing.
I’m sorry again we’ve had to close these crossings but I hope this explains why we’ve had to do it. These decisions aren’t taken lightly and are made in the interest of public safety.