Woburn Sands is a small town situated just 6 miles south east of Milton Keynes City Centre and 2 miles from the M1, midway between London and Birmingham
PRESS RELEASE from Woburn Sands Town Council - Issued 1 October 2020
Anger at closure of school crossing by Network Rail
Network Rail has closed the pedestrian crossing linking houses in Woburn Sands to the North of the Bletchley-Bedford rail line with the main town. The line is part of the proposed East-West rail link between Oxford and Cambridge. The closure follows approval by an inspector who was appointed to approve the various improvement works to the line to be carried out by Network Rail under the Transport and Works Act.
The pedestrian crossing is called School Crossing since about a third of the approximately 300 daily crossings are children going to Swallowfield and Fulbrook Schools.
The Town Council and residents have always acknowledged that the at-grade crossing presents safety concerns in the long term, particularly when the line is extended, and do not object to the closure in principal. However there has been outrage at Network Rail's proposal to require pedestrians to use the main road crossing, mingling with traffic. This proposal was accepted by the Inspector in his report published in late 2019 despite strong local opposition.
Local anger was exacerbated by the fact that, following earlier discussions between the Woburn Sands Town Council and Network Rail, Milton Keynes Council gave their permission for a pedestrian footbridge which would provide separation between pedestrian and vehicular traffic.
Discussions are currently under way between Milton Keynes Council and Network Rail on proposals to improve the safety of the pedestrians now being forced to use the road crossing. While these are welcomed the local community is united in believing that a pedestrian bridge remains the best option, particularly in view of the proposed increase in rail traffic anticipated by Network Rail. In the meantime a number of children are now being taken to school by car which is contrary to the environmental and health policies urged by Government.
Councillor Michael Geddes, the mayor of Woburn Sands, said "It seems extraordinary to me that Network Rail apparently thinks that it is safer for pedestrians, many of them children, to cross the railway mingled with traffic rather than via a pedestrian bridge. Surely safety should be our primary concern - after all, in financial terms, the cost of a bridge is a drop in the ocean of the total costs of East-West Rail".
MK Ward Councillor, David Hopkins, added "I am dismayed at Network Rail's apparent shifting of the problem (as they appear to see it) to MK Council and in so doing have turned a minor safety issue into a major hazard for our school students in particular. We need to have the closure suspended in order to enable Network Rail and MK Council Highways to meet and decide upon a mutually acceptable long term solution".
A parent, Sarah Drea, commented "I live near the train station in Woburn Sands. I need to cross the train line by foot at least twice a day. I have always taken my two small children to cross further down, on the now closed footpath over the line as it is safer than the road. I now cross by the train station. There is an incredibly high risk of being hit by a car, even when you are not actually on the road. There needs to be separation between the footpath and the road, which there isn't".
The community is united in demanding that Network Rail changes its mind in the interests of safety.