CALLS have been made for a footpath across a railway line in between Cofton Hackett and Barnt Green, where there have been no accidents or fatalities, to be re-opened after it was closed by Network Rail and Worcestershire County Council.
The walkway near Cofton Hall was closed in July for 21 days under an emergency order and then for six months.
During a meeting last week with Network Rail, attended by 50 people, findings relating to the crossing were released.
A nine-day census of the footpath showed 125 pedestrians used the area – equating to 14 people everyday and a spreadsheet produced by Network Rail illustrated there had been just 14 ‘incidents of trespass’ in the last 11-and-a-half years, from January 1, 2004 to June 27, 2015, with the latest incident being over a year ago – on October 6 2014.
Most ‘trespassing’ was labelled ‘misuse’ of the footpath.
The main issue is people crossing three railway lines. Between two of those is a ‘central refuge’ where people are urged to stop and wait. But, Network Rail said, many had not been using it.
The Standard was contacted by resident Malcolm Shine who said: “It is stated people are using it as a single crossing which makes getting across it more dangerous but if there’s nothing coming, there is no need to stop.”
Douglas Castle, the area footpath secretary of the Worcestershire Ramblers Association (WRA), is due to report to the branch’s executive committee today (Friday).
He said: “My views are very much alligned with the local concerns.
“This is an important footpath and it would be a tragedy to see it permanently closed.
“It would require a formal closure for that to happen and we would want to see some very good evidence to support that. To date, we haven’t seen any.
“What we would like to see is the crossing made safer and reopened.”
Mr Shine labelled the closure a ‘knee-jerk reaction’ by Network Rail which, he said, was trying to hit targets.
He added it was well-documented Network Rail had targets from Government to look at railway and level crossings and either close or upgrade them.
In the case of upgrading, there are several options – the crossing could have warning lights put on it, a bridge could be built, or a subway could run under the track.
At last week’s meeting, it was revealed – according to a 1952 Ordinance Survey map – there was a tunnel under the track.
Campaigners looking to get the footpath re-opened are hoping that will be looked into to ascertain whether it was filled in and could be unfilled or whether it was just left and has become overgrown, providing the possibility of the tunnel being re-opened.
But they say they fear Network Rail is intent on closing the footpath for good.
A Worcestershire County Council spokesperson said: “We have made a temporary order to close footpath CH-S10 based on information from Network Rail which raises concerns of public safety.”
He added the authority had a responsibility for public safety and had to respond to concerns while solutions were being investigated.
A Network Rail spokesperson said: “A survey carried out as part of our electrification programme recorded incidents of misuse at Cofton level crossing.
“A six-month emergency closure was agreed with the local authority and we are looking at alternative ways of crossing the railway.”
He added a temporary diversion had been put in place and NR would continue to be in contact with the council and other interested groups.