Plumpton would be ‘cut in two’

Crossing protesters. Picture by Reg Stone
Crossing protesters. Picture by Reg Stone

Tomorrow (Friday, September 18) is deadline day for Plumpton’s historic, Grade II Listed level crossing.

Network Rail wants to replace the historic railway gates at the level crossing with a modern ‘drop down’ barrier complete with lights, sirens and new signs. The plan met with anger from the village and the Parish Council with more than 70 people attending a demonstration last Sunday.

Before the work can begin, Lewes District Council (LDC) must give Listed Building Consent for the removal of the gates by Friday, September 18. If is not forthcoming then Network Rail says it will close the crossing altogether from that date. This would divide the village in two, cut children off from school and have a serious impact on businesses and the racecourse.

If the new barriers are installed, they would be controlled remotely by CCTV from Three Bridges station. Plumpton Parish Council vice-chair Reg Stone said at present the gates are operated manually by four signalmen working in rotation who would be made redundant.

Residents are up in arms about the potential removal of the Victorian gates which, they say, are the last of their type on the UK rail network. They believe the gate design means they are safer than modern, unmanned gates and cannot be ‘jumped’ by vehicles, children or animals.

Reg Stone added: “It’s important to point out that local people accept some modernisation must take place. We would be happy to see gates replicated in modern materials, preserving their unique appearance at what is the gateway to the National Park. Network Rail has shown a ruthless determination to get its own way with no concern for our heritage. Methods have been bullying and arrogant to the Nth degree. The demolition application was put to LDC a long time ago but their decision has been subject to delay after delay after delay. We now feel Network Rail is blackmailing us by threatening to close the road at the railway line if this decision is not made by Friday.”

Network Rail says 19th century technology would be replaced with modern technology which is safer, more reliable and cost effective. Many factors were considered including race day traffic volume. It is committed to making the railway as safe, reliable and efficient as possible and plans for Plumpton are part of a national move to improve level crossing safety and centralise signalling operations.

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