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Presentation by Network Rail regarding the Ely Area Catchment Enhancement project and relationship with Fen Road crossing

Meeting: 18/11/2021 - North Area Committee (Item 32)

32 Presentation by Network Rail regarding the Ely Area Catchment Enhancement project and relationship with Fen Road crossing pdf icon PDF 2 MB

Minutes:

The Committee received a report from Network Rail Officers regarding the Ely Area Catchment Enhancement project, which was a scheme to increase both freight and passenger services which run through the Ely area. Officers also spoke to the project in relation to the Fen Road crossing. Network Rail’s presentation slides could be found via the meeting webpage:  Agenda for North Area Committee on Thursday, 18th November, 2021, 6.30 pm - Cambridge Council

 

In response to Members’ questions Network Rail Representatives’ said the following:

i.  Network Rail had been exploring future proofing the capacity of the rail junction. Ely was a bottleneck for trains and was a challenge to overcome. The Department for Transport had asked Network Rail to look at increasing the capacity through Ely to 10 trains per hour, Network Rail was looking at capacity above that. The preliminary results suggested that Network Rail could deliver more capacity than the Department for Transport asked for, however there would be other constraints on the network which would need to be addressed.

ii.  Was aware that Fen Road was the only vehicular access to houses that side of the railway line and understood residents’ concerns and frustrations regarding the length of time the barriers were down. Should an emergency vehicle be waiting at the level crossing, the Signaller should see this via the CCTV and can take a decision to help the vehicle cross the crossing quicker. Network Rail had explored what could be done to reduce barrier downtime. All technical solutions had been explored to reduce the barrier downtime. There were no technical solutions to reduce the barrier downtime.

iii.  There was a wider issue, Network Rail officers had presented the options available regarding the Ely Area Catchment Enhancement scheme. Other work had been undertaken to make sure that they were minimising the length of time the barrier was down.

iv.  Network Rail responded to the North East Cambridge Area Action Plan (NECAAP) and said that land should be reserved to facilitate connections. Thought some of the plans involved a foot crossing near the level crossing. Would be willing to work with third parties. Would discuss issues raised with colleagues.  Network Rail’s comment on the NECAAP consultation was not a commitment, the comment said land should be set aside.

v.  The Fen Road crossing was a complex issue. Network Rail were not saying that it was for other parties to solve problems for Network Rail. In an ideal world would want to close level crossings as they were a risky structure to have on the rail network because of the interface with members of the public however they needed to have a credible alternative available to be able to close a level crossing. The issue was the availability of land where alternative access could be provided and to understand what options were available and whether Highways would adopt any such land.

Action: Network Rail agreed to discuss with the Councils (in response to request from Cllr Bird and Cllr Hawkins (SCDC)) regarding Fen Road crossing / alternative road / bridge. 

 

Members of the public asked a number of questions, as set out below.

 

1.  What steps were being taken to lessen the time that the Fen Road Level Crossing was down, waiting for trains to leave Cambridge North station heading south, for most of which time the trains were still sitting in the station.

 

Network Rail response: All technical solutions had been explored to reduce the barrier downtime. There were no technical solutions to reduce the barrier downtime

 

2.  The problem was less the total down time but the length of individual down times which causes frustration.  This had got better, but can still be a problem.When the barriers were down for 1 minute, this was not too much of a problem,  8 minutes plus was very frustrating.Asked if there were any incidents or risk factors, or a threshold for closure of the Fen Road Crossing. Felt the danger from Fen Road Crossing was less from train accidents than road accidents arising from drivers’ frustration.

 

Network Rail response: The safety of level crossings was regularly reviewed, the frequency of reviews depended on a number of factors including accidents or near misses.