The leader of the Conservative group on the City of York Council says he’s been told that Network Rail has cancelled plans to close a level crossing on the main line south of York – for now.
Chris Steward, Conservative councillor for Copmanthorpe, has been told that Network Rail has withdrawn its Transport and Works Act order which was being used to close the foot crossing.
It is used to cross four 125mph lines that make up the East Coast Main Line and the TransPennine Express route to Leeds.
Network Rail has now given a statement in response. (See below)
Cllr Steward says he actually welcomes the plan to close the crossing – but it must be replaced by a fully accessible bridge with ramps so that everyone can use it.
Network Rail’s plan was to build a replacement bridge with steps. That was unpopular as it excludes people like the elderly and wheelchair users from accessing the open countryside on the other side of the tracks.
He says villagers will now have to wait and see how Network Rail will take this matter forward. The people in charge of the train tracks want the crossing to close so they can run more services at faster speeds without increasing the risk associated with people crossing on foot.
Opponents, including City of York Council, had said that a stepped bridge would exclude people from the countryside and could lead to “unlawful discrimination”.
Copmanthorpe Parish Council too asked for an alternative footbridge, such as a ramped design, which provides disabled access.
But Network Rail argued the crossing, which is part of the Ebor Way, was not currently used by anybody with reduced mobility who would require a fully accessible bridge – due to rough terrain on either side.
Campaigners said there is no comprehensive data available about people with different levels of mobility or mobility aids using the footpath.
Network Rail said:
Since 2019 we have engaged with the surrounding community and stakeholders developing a solution to enable us to close Copmanthorpe level crossing and divert the existing Public Right of Way via an alternative means of crossing the line. This is to enable faster, quieter, more frequent trains to be introduced as part of the multi-billion-pound Transpennine Route Upgrade.
We remain confident that our proposed stepped footbridge design would support current users of the crossing, cause the least visual intrusion and environmental impact on the local community and retain the ability for a ramp to be added in future.
However, there were passionate and reasoned objections heard at the Public Inquiry and we have made the choice to withdraw our application at this time. This is not a decision we have taken lightly. Accessibility is important to us and by withdrawing our application now it will provide a further opportunity to evaluate solutions which may be viable and re-assess the benefits of all options. Any alternative design proposal would be subject to consultation and Network Rail progressing with new planning consents.
The Transpennine Route Upgrade between York, Leeds and Manchester is supporting economic growth in the North and delivering real benefits for passengers, communities and freight services along this vital rail artery. We will continue to work with and listen to the local community and other stakeholders along the way.