Newmarket rail crossing to stay open after planning inspector rules alternative route 'neither suitable or convenient'
The campaign to keep a much-used Newmarket rail crossing open has scored a win after an inspector ruled an alternate route would be neither suitable or convenient.
The Weatherby crossing, which connects two halves of the town, will not be closed by Network Rail after inspector Ian Jenkins said the alternate route put forward would ‘add greatly to the travel time’ of users and that safety concerns through the New Cheveley Road underpass would put people off walking, especially for elderly and disabled residents.
The rail company wanted to shut well used through-route, and in 2018 a planning inquiry began with Mr Jenkins and his team walking the alternate route Network Rail proposed.
The rail company said the crossing was unsafe, and the inspector agreed in last week’s decision the ‘safety risks are real and tangible and cannot be ignored’.
The decision came just hours before another inquiry into the crossing, whether or not it should be deemed a public right of way, came to an end.
On Friday barristers from the town council and Network Rail closed the inquiry with inspector Mark Yates now set to consider hours of cross-examination and bundles of written evidence before making his decision.
Juan Lopez, Network Rail’s barrister, went on the attack. “There is a lot of assertions that are made on no evidence and some creative thinking,” he said.
And Mr Lopez blasted the town council for what he described as a ‘failure to look at the evidence objectively’.
As part of Newmarket Town Council’s case, it collected interviews with people who have historic knowledge of using, or knowing somebody who used, the crossing. But these accounts were dismissed by Network Rail.
Mr Lopez just because there used to be a crossing guard did not mean it was a public right of way, and that users had been trespassing.
Merrow Golden, on behalf of the town council, said it was ‘absurd’ to suggest users had been breaking the law when using the crossing.
Newmarket Town Council had presented historic maps and documents to the inspector which it argued proved it was a right of way.
Ms Golden said the case was ‘as persuasive as it is simple’ and the crossing was a public road.