Crash highlights safety concerns at level crossing

19/8/14- Normans Bay residents concerned by plans to automate the Normans Bay railway crossing.  Jenifer Corker, Nick Munro and Michael Mortlock SUS-140819-171057001
19/8/14- Normans Bay residents concerned by plans to automate the Normans Bay railway crossing. Jenifer Corker, Nick Munro and Michael Mortlock SUS-140819-171057001

An accident on the busy A259 which resulted in traffic being diverted through Normans Bay has highlighted campaigner’s concerns on planned changes to the level crossing.

A number of Normans Bay residents, opposing Network Rail’s plans to change the manually operated crossing, which is currently closed overnight between 10pm-7am, to a 24 hour remotely controlled crossing operated from a control centre at Three Bridges, say the road traffic accident (RTA) on August 26 is just the kind of incident which could put lives at risk when the crossing is operated remotely.

Jane Seaways said the extra traffic following the accident, in which two French motorcyclists were seriously injured and closed the road in both directions, gave cause for concern.

She said: “I was listening to Radio Sussex and they announced the diversion as Herbrand Walk and Normans Bay ‘walk’, unsuitable for HGVs.

“I don’t know who put that diversion in place but obviously it is worrying. Nigel (the crossing attendant) was again having to control the traffic between gate closures, and at one point I saw the east end of the village was blocked by waiting traffic, then further issues of them trying to pass along the concrete road. One relief keeper has told me that if it happens on his shift he will just close the gates and keep them closed.”

Joan Mortlock was stuck in the ensuing traffic jam caused by the RTA trying to get to her home in Normans Bay, she said: “Due to the volume of traffic it took us an hour to get back from Cooden Beach. “When we eventually got to the crossing and the gate was opened we had very irate people behind us wanting us to go across the crossing when there was still oncoming traffic.

“We can see there is going to be a bad accident there if this is the attitude of people and without a crossing attendant it will be chaos. Lets hope when there is a traffic jam, nobody in Normans Bay needs any of the emergency services.”

Nick Munro, Hon. Secretary, Normans Bay Residents Association, said: “We have this problem several times a year when there are accidents on the A259 between Pevensey Bay and Little Common and traffic is diverted through Normans Bay.”

Carol Worthy said the main issue at the crossing is visibility: “The problem is that there is no clear line of sight from one side of the crossing to the other because the rail is higher than the road on either side and the road curves from East to West just after the gates on the South side, blocking the view of what traffic is on the North side until one is actually up on the top of the road which is the actual crossing itself!

“When vehicles approach from either side they are blind to oncoming vehicles. It seems unbelievable that such a clearly dangerous and obvious problem can be allowed to be ignored by Network Rail.”

Carol added: “I live at Heaven, at the far west end of Normans Bay. I am very aware that cars with caravans travel along this road as we are between two caravan sites. There only needs to be more than one vehicle trying to cross on either side of the crossing, both believing they have right of way to create a terrible train crash. Even if the two opposing front cars realising they are blocked on the crossing try to reverse, if there are cars behind them who do not respond swiftly because they are unaware of the imminent and critical danger, the front cars will be trapped on the crossing and along with their passengers, potentially be smashed under headlong oncoming train.”