Fears for safety of Northumberland Line level crossing replacement

Safety fears have been raised over plans for a new underpass in Ashington as part of work for the Northumberland Line.

Thursday, 8th July 2021, 10:21 am
Updated Thursday, 8th July 2021, 11:43 am
Coun Caroline Bell near the crossing in Ashington.
Coun Caroline Bell near the crossing in Ashington.

Currently, anyone who wants to cross the existing rails on foot can use a level crossing between Darnley Road and Chillingham Crescent.

But once the project is complete, it is expected that the ‘Hospital level crossing’, as it is officially known, will need to be replaced.

Caroline Ball, a member of the Labour opposition group on Northumberland County Council, said: “I organised the meeting with Network Rail and Northumberland County Council as so many residents contacted me with concerns after a notice appeared on lamp posts locally.

“This really isn’t good enough communication for a scheme of this size.

“Everyone I have spoken to is 100 per cent for the railway returning to Ashington but the underpass is not wanted near Darnley Road and many feel uneasy about the proposed crossing.

“Local residents are worried about anti-social behaviour, crime and the safety for women and vulnerable adults using the underpass.”

Despite concerns, transport chiefs have claimed an underpass is the “preferred solution”.

The council ran a public consultation on plans for the Northumberland Line last year.

According to this, while the current level crossing is ‘well used by school children’ and quiet enough that walkers can ‘look out’ and judge for themselves whether it is safe to cross, increased traffic and speeds mean it will need to close.

As well as an underpass, bosses have also proposed a footbridge at the planned new Ashington Station, in John Street.

A council spokesman said: “Throughout this process we’ve looked to be as transparent as possible and engage with local communities about plans for the line.

“Options for the Hospital level crossing in Ashington were outlined in the public consultation in December – as there is a need to replace the existing crossing before any new passenger services start.

“Other options included a footbridge, but an underpass is currently the preferred solution.

“We appreciate there are concerns locally and organised a session with the local ward member and residents to discuss these.

“We’re now reviewing the feedback.”

Work on restoring the line started last week, with passenger services expected to return in 2024.