Users of Downham Market Railway Station should allow more time, Lynn News letters
The railway was opened from Lynn to Downham in 1846 and extended to Ely during the next year when it joined up with a line from London. Thus London was connected to this thriving area of East Anglia.
During the intervening 173 years there has never been a bridge across the line at Downham. Access has always been by either the road at the level crossing, as now, or by a barrow crossing which was situated at the bottom of the sloping platform ends near to the level crossing.
As a result of the increasingly serious and frightening abuse of the warning signs for the barrow crossing by passengers, First Capital Connect, who operated nearly all the passenger trains at the time, together with Network Rail had no option but to close the crossing. There were daily instances, often in double figures, of idiots running across the line in front of the oncoming trains despite all the warnings.
Indeed, there are incidents on record where people were struck by the train, fortunately not resulting in any injury. The train drivers often required help in dealing with the affect of shock resulting from such “near misses”.
Plans were drawn up and subsequently revised to incorporate lifts but a combination of planning and environmental requirements together with complying with accessibility and health and safety legislation, railway regulations and the huge costs of the works the scheme was cancelled.
An underpass was considered but as it would have been below sea level it was rightly rejected for obvious reasons in this part of the world.
Although Greater Anglia run two or three trains on the line in the morning and evening peak hours, they do not have responsibility for the service - that lies with Great Northern, so it is not for GA to “pull their finger out” as suggested by a contributor to the article.
We all know that the situation is not ideal but it is partly the result of the almost unbelievable stupidity of a sizeable minority of intending passengers over a number of years which led inevitably to this solution.
As I was chairman at the time of the Fen Line Users Association and closely involved in all the discussions I can assure your staff and readers that what we now have is the only method of crossing the line safely which complies with all the relevant requirements and legislation.
My message to those who have a problem with this is simple – give yourselves a few extra minutes to catch your trains.