Network Rail are proposing to close many level crossings on footpaths, bridleways and byways throughout East Anglia. A consultation process has been launched, but it is difficult to engage with, requiring a seperate form to be filled out for each route. The whole consultation process is in 3 stages, so those who do not keep up with each stage may find their views ultimately ignored.
The main reason given for closures is safety, but it is clear that the real agenda is to cut costs and in some cases speed up rail journeys. Many of the proposals involve diverting routes to other crossings, or on to busy and narrow roads, where the danger is simply moved to another location. A few diversions involve using existing nearby underpasses, although these may be liable to flood, or require horse riders to dismount. Many require lengthy diversions and in some cases paths will be extinguished completely as through routes. Access rights will be reduced on many routes, in particular byways will become bridleways, or merely footpaths.
At the moment it seems most of the proposals are aimed at easy targets, routes in rural locations with relatively few users, or routes that they say do not have right of way status. However future plans may see further closures of more frequently used crossings.
Network Rail could improve safety at rural crossings by installing warning lights, audible warnings and telephones, rather than by diverting people to other crossing points, or closing routes completely. Many of these routes are a lifeline for those in the countryside, mass closures will result in an iron curtain running across the landscape.
Locally the proposals affect at least 8 crossings at Ely, 4 at Littleport, 2 at Little Downham, 2 at Soham and others at Fordham, Hilgay and Little Thetford.
Anyone responding should also inform the County Council of their views, so that they can be represented. Details of the proposals and consultation process can be found at: Network Rail Anglia Level Crossing Closures
See also: stopnetworkrail.org.uk
Hi everyone, I was so pleased to see so many interested people at the meeting with Peter Duthie & his colleague Emma Murdon from Cambs. County Council ROW dept.
We had a variety of issues raised including the hemlock on Headlake Drove & actually all over the fens, the work being carried out on Harrison's Drove, hedges that need cutting back, byways & bridleways that are so holed & rutted that they are virtually unusable, the permissive bridleway at Burwell where the entrance has been partially blocked etc..
Peter has already emailed me about the permissive bridleway at Burwell. He has been on to DEFRA & hopefully this can be sorted. Payment for this runs out next year, so we will have to wait and see whether this is a route that is renewed or will be lost.
The issue of gating byways was raised yet again. This was suggested at a recent Reach PC meeting, by one of the parish councillors. It was interesting to hear from Emma Murdon that the byways around Little Downham where this has been tried, it has been found that the damage to the surfaces has continued, so it appears that the majority of the damage is not the 4-wheel drivers ('cause they do not have keys) but the farmers vehicles after all. Personnally I would not be in favour of attempting to gate any byways, seems like a slippery route to go down (sorry for the pun) & would make life especially difficult for carriage drivers. I think we need to keep our byways open & try to ensure that the farmers that damage the surfaces do the maintenance.
Some of you may have been aware of the fenced off areas along Harrison's Drove by stakes & orange netting. You can get past at the side. Harrison's Drove has quite a few areas that become waterlogged in the winter/wet periods, mostly caused by clay that was deposited on the surface some years back. The NT, authorised by CCC, have dug out the worst areas & filled with stones/hardcore & will top with fen soil in the hope that that will assist in draining those areas.
There seem to be a problem in & around Reach with overgrown hedges alongside the byways. Do you know of other areas? We will be meeting soon to mark areas that need attention & then to send the maps to Peter Duthie in order that maintenance can be targetted in the worst areas.
The same with the problem of hemlock. We asked if the worst areas could be cut by CCC, if we marked the worst areas on a map. This is such a problem around the fen now, especially both sides of Headlake Drove. It might take CCC a while to employ someone to do this work, but We were told that they were hoping to have a third cut along the verges.
Happy riding/driving, Joy
The Fenland Bridleways Association supports access to local Bridleways, Byways and other routes, for horse riders, dog walkers, cyclists and other users. Membership is currently just £2 per year. Members share advice on routes to ride, receive regular news and updates and are welcome, but not obliged, to come to meetings.
For general enquiries, please email the secretary: lhmboyle'AT'googlemail.com
The FBA meet at The Dykes End, in Reach, last Monday of the month, at 8 pm, except August, December and November, when a social event is usually held elsewhere. If this coincides with a bank holiday, the meeting is held the week before.
The Fenland Bridleways Association would like to secure safe access between villages, for horse riders, dog walkers and others who do not feel comfortable walking through the herds.
To secure a route as a right of way, it is necessary to provide evidence of public use and need. Many routes that have been traditionally used by local people are no longer as accessible as they once were. As such, the FBA are interested in hearing from people who have used fen paths over the years, be it on foot, bicycle, horseback or vehicle, who are interested in preserving these routes for posterity.