'Most bashed bridge' could close as part of major railway enhancement plans
Closure of the Stonea railway underpass and an upgrade of numerous crossings in the March area are part of multi-million pound plans to enhance the area's rail system through Ely.
The closure of the crossing, labelled one of the country's most bashed bridges, is included in a series of documents drawn up by Network Rail and currently subject to public consultation.
Network Rail wants to increase capacity through Ely for up to 10 train services in each direction per hour from the current level.
However, the railway through Ely is operating at full capacity. This means that Network Rail is unable to increase the number of services through city because the existing layout of the tracks, junctions, signals and existing speed restrictions across key bridges in the Ely area acts as a bottleneck on the network.
Network Rail has been given £13.1m from the Department for Transport and a further £9.3m from the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Combined Authority, New Anglia Local Enterprise Partnership and the Strategic Freight Network, to fund the Ely enhancement.
The company has already consulted on its plans to upgrade Ely, now it is looking at the wider implications of those proposals including options for: Ely North junction, Queen Adelaide level crossings; upgrading or closing other level crossings between Ely and Peterborough, between Ely and King’s Lynn, and between Ely and Cambridge.
The consultation document explains level crossings introduce the greatest risk to the railway and road users.
To run more trains through Ely, the safety and effectiveness of each level crossing has to be assessed.
That includes looking at upgrading 15 level crossings in 13 locations from half barrier to full barrier to maintain safety for passengers, road and pedestrian users.
These include: Badgeney Road, March; Horsemoor in Upwell Road, March, Norwood Road, March, Wisbech Road, Manea and three at Three Horseshoes in Whittlesey Road/March Road, Turves.
Network Rail says risk assessments will help identify the crossings that need upgrading for safety reasons, these will take in factors such as volume of traffic, cyclists, pedestrians, train frequency, line speed, the condition of the crossing and incidents such as accidents, near misses and misuse.
These assessments may require level crossings to be upgraded to provide a greater level of protection for level crossing users but may come with increased durations when barriers are down.
The company warns: "In some circumstances the frequency and length of trains running across a level crossing may mean that the barriers are down for significant periods of time, especially in peak hours. If this happens all options will need to be assessed."
Network Rail is offering two options for the Stonea underpass to maintain safety for passengers, road and pedestrian users when more trains run on the line.
Option one will see the upgrade of the existing manually operated gates to a full automatic barrier.
Option two includes the same upgrade of the gates but to also close the underpass to all vehicles.
Network Rail says: "The existing underpass has a headroom of only two metres, it is regularly struck by vehicles that are too high, causing significant disruption to train services.
"Closure of the underpass will prevent bridge strikes, reduce disruption of the railway and reduce the burden of having to regularly inspect and repair the bridge following a vehicle strike. The underpass would remain open to pedestrians and cyclists."
The consultation runs until November 28 and you can have your say via a survey which is available on the Network Rail website.