THERE has been an outcry in Plumpton over news that a unique feature of the village’s heritage looks set to be taken away next year.
Network Rail plans to replace the historic railway gates at the level crossing near the station which have been there since the 19th century. The manually operated wooden gates, which close road access as trains pass through, will be replaced by modern ‘drop down’ barriers controlled remotely by CCTV from Three Bridges.
Plumpton’s signalman is to give way to flashing lights, sirens and new signage after the road layout has been altered. There is particular local concern about the fate of the Victorian gates because they fall within the curtailment of the signal box and are therefore likewise Listed.
They are believed to be one of only two sets remaining in the entire country.
Locals said that because of the way the gates are designed no children or animals can stray on to the railway line and it was impossible for cars to try to ‘jump them’, unlike the new modern barriers.
Villager Katie Wride said she was concerned about an apparent lack of consultation. She said: “The least Network Rail can do is be up front and open with villagers as to its plans and timescales and consult us. We don’t want what happened in Frinton on Sea when three years of negotiation ended in Network Rail ripping out the gates in the middle of the night.”
She suggested the village gates could be replaced on a like-for-like basis, only automated.
Local historian Richard Wells said: “Plumpton’s rail gates are unique. It will be a sad day to lose them as it will change the whole character of the village. We must look at every option to save them.”
A Southern Railway spokesman said Network Rail would be replacing 19th century technology with 21st century, which is safer, more reliable and cost-effective.
He said there had been lengthy discussions with the parish council about the plans to upgrade the crossing and replace the existing gates and signaller-operated crossing with a new full barrier version monitored in Three Bridges. Many factors had been taken into consideration – including the volume of traffic in the area on race days/
“The crossing gates are listed and Network Rail has been in discussion with the local council and residents about what they would like to do with them,” said the spokesman. “The same discussions will take place around the future of the signal box.
“Network Rail is committed to making the railway as safe, reliable and efficient as possible and its plans for Plumpton are part of a national move to improve level crossing safety and centralise its signalling operations.
“Network Rail is proposing to carry out the work at Plumpton in 2013.”