Some of you may recall that back in 2017, Network Rail submitted a Transport and Works Act Order (TWAO) to close or modify 57 rail crossing in Essex, Hertfordshire, the unitary authorities of Thurrock and Southend-on-Sea, and the London Borough of Havering. Following a Public Inquiry, the Secretary of State has granted Network Rail the powers to close or modify 37 of them. The good news is that 18 rail crossings have been saved from closure. The BSDFA provided input to the Public Inquiry but it was the Ramblers (Uttlesford and East Herts) who took the lead in what is a national issue for the walking charity. David Glass, former East Herts Ramblers and BSDFA committee member, played a key part in making a strong case for saving those crossing in the Bishop’s Stortford area.
The Order was finally made on 9 June and came into effect on 30 June. Network Rail will now need to work local landowners and the county councils in order to implement the Order.
Having read through the report from the Secretary of State, I’ve initially focussed on the impact that the Order will have on the three impacted rail crossings between Bishop’s Stortford and Sawbridgeworth.
– Pattens (Thorley FP 022)
– Gilston (Thorley FP 007)
– Tednambury (Sawbridgeworth FP 003)
The good news is that the Secretary of State has agreed with the Inspector’s recommendation that Pattens should not be included in the Order as the proposed alternatives would not be suitable and convenient. This is a popular access route into the Thorley Wash nature reserve and also provides an important link to the rights of way networks west and east of the Stort.
However, the Gilston crossing will be closed and the Secretary of State has agreed with the Inspector that walkers wanting to join the River Stort will need to walk along Thorley Street and connect via Thorley Footpath 005. His view is that this route “would be suitable and convenient for users of H06 (Thorley Footpath 007), and that its increased journey distance is unlikely to be inconvenient for users of the existing footpath and would be unlikely to disproportionately affect any group of users.” It’s important to stress that ‘suitability and convenience’ comes ahead of creating a route that is aesthetically pleasing. Walkers heading south along the existing footpath will be routed along an extension through an existing rail underpass to meet the A1184, a couple of hundred metres south of the current terminus of Thorley Footpath 007.
Sawbridgeworth Footpath 003 leading to the Tednambury crossing will be diverted south alongside the railway to a private crossing at Tednambury Farm and will then loop north and then east of Grove Cottage before joining the existing line of the footpath. The route would only add a couple of hundred metres to the route and has the advantage of maintaining the high ground and views over the Stort valley.
I’ve spoken with the Herts CC Rights of Way Officer, who has confirmed that they are “having a series of meetings with Network Rail to discuss implementation of these diversions. No firm dates have yet been set, but we will be ensuring that the new routes are fully satisfactory before any changes are made.”
To view the full report which will provide details about other impacted crossing please follow this link: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/essex-level-crossing-reduction-transport-and-works-act-order
We’ll keep you updated of further developments.