Farmers only to have access if two level crossings in March shut - the good news is closures will save Network Rail £4million.

Level crossing Silt Drove, March

Level crossing Silt Drove, March - Credit: Archant

Two level crossings in March could be locked shut with only farmers having private access in a move to save Network Rail £4million.

Level crossing affected - Middle Drove, March

Level crossing affected - Middle Drove, March - Credit: Archant

The crossings at Silt Drove and Middle Drove, popular with dog walkers, ramblers, horse riders and cyclists, would hopefully still have access but through a smaller side gate.

The suggestion comes amid plans for the railway line from Peterborough to March to be re-signalled.

When that goes ahead, any railway track with a public road crossing would need to be up graded with high tech modern barriers costing around £2million each.

The plans are being discussed along with changes to a total of 130 level crossings in the region - 30 of which are in Cambridgeshire.

Level crossing Eastrea Drove, Whittlesey

Level crossing Eastrea Drove, Whittlesey - Credit: Archant


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Locally two of those crossings are in March and the other two are in Eastrea Cross Drove and Brickyard Drove in Whittlesey.

Most involve footpath access only.

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“In March it would be a lot of money to spend on roads that are barely used by traffic but are more used by local dog walkers and the odd tractor, busier at harvest time,” said project engineer Andrew Kenning.

“This consultation is about opportunity. Rationalising the number of crossings we have will allow us to better manage the crossings we keep.”

Level crossing affected - Brickyard Drove, Whittlesey

Level crossing affected - Brickyard Drove, Whittlesey - Credit: Archant

Plans for change have taken around 18 months to get ready for a series of three day open days in March, Littleport and Cambridge.

Mr Kenning said: “We have spoken to many people including councils, land owners and the local rights of way officers so that we have had proper local knowledge and input on this.

“If level crossings were built today they would not be built as they are - in some instances use of them has increased and in others decreased.”

He added that train speeds could not be increased without improved rail crossings.

Silts Drove - one of the level crossings affected in the Fens

Silts Drove - one of the level crossings affected in the Fens - Credit: Archant

“This is not the final answer - we are open to ideas and suggestions and will analyse feedback, it is the whole point of a public consultation,” Mr Kenning said.

Any changes will not be made until 2018/19.

Around the Ely area there are around 21 level crossings under scrutiny.

The biggest change which could be made is closing the underpass at Littleport station and instead passengers would cross a ramp on the side of the platform.

Middle Drove - one of the level crossings affected in the Fens

Middle Drove - one of the level crossings affected in the Fens - Credit: Archant

Network Rail says that closing level crossings and diverting to alternatives will make the railway safer by removing the point where people can come into contact with trains.

The closures will also help improve reliability and enable separate, potential future developments for faster and more frequent services.

None of the crossings in this proposal involve closing public roads, a spokesman said.

Richard Schofield, Network Rail’s route managing director for Anglia, said: “We know that public Rights of Way are an important part of country life in this region, and where possible, we will maintain this connectivity with the countryside and in some cases will improve the Rights of Way network.

Level crossing affected in the Fens

Level crossing affected in the Fens - Credit: Archant

“Our plans to close level crossings propose small changes to how people cross the railway but the closures will help us reduce the risks that level crossings pose, improve safety and reliability of the railway for the future.”

• For details visit Network Rail level crossings proposal

Level crossings closure exhibition at March community centre. Dan from Network Rail project team wit

Level crossings closure exhibition at March community centre. Dan from Network Rail project team with one of the hand out leaflets. Picture: Steve Williams. - Credit: Archant

 Level crossings closure exhibition at March community centre. Picture: Steve Williams.

Level crossings closure exhibition at March community centre. Picture: Steve Williams. - Credit: Archant

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