LETTER: 'Spalding actually needs more trains'
With reference to your piece on level crossings, let me explain and clarify some points. I’ve been a special transport writer specialising on both road and rail issues for 24 years now.
Firstly the quote - unattributed - that says: “You wait five- to 10-minutes for a couple of passenger trains to pass and there are only a couple of passengers on each train - and folks want to increase the number of trains running. There is hardly anyone using them,” is simply incorrect.
The passenger usage on the line is very good and seems to be increasing, and I would go so far as to say the new franchisee should look to increase the line’s trains from single coach to two-car trains to meet this increased demand.
We also need more passenger trains in the timetable - for example an earlier morning train to Peterborough, a later evening train back from Peterborough and a Sunday service. These could be a massive boost for the economy of the town.
Secondly, last week there was a serious issue on the ECML when the overhead wires were brought down by an electric train at Tallington.
This meant LNER had to divert some of its trains through Spalding and Lincoln, thus making the line more busy than usual and so the gates were down more often. That was wholly unforeseen.
Finally, the reason gates have to go down for what seems like a long time is due to safety. Freight trains, which are long and heavy, take extended periods to stop compared with the single coach passenger trains.
Therefore, the gates need to be down with sufficient time to allow a freight train to stop in good time in the event of an emergency without fouling the crossing.
Usually it’s about four minutes. That situation is exacerbated if there is another freight train coming in the opposite direction and then when that has passed, if there is a third train, it multiplies the problem.
I understand the frustration of local residents, and yes, there has been some issues with the level crossing gates themselves.
However, in the bigger picture, sadly we live in a flat area and that means there are lots of level crossings on this line.
We also have to accept the following - there is more road traffic, so more congestion, and there is more railfreight traffic. The latter is good for the community as it takes lorries off the road - each container train that passes through Spalding, if fully loaded, is taking about 40 HGVs off the road - so less pollution and less road congestion.
Railfreight is good for the economy and good for society, but on the flatlands, it does mean we have more level crossing gates being down for longer periods.
There is no sensible alternative in Spalding unless you want to start building several multi-million pound bridges or underpasses, which - even if they could physically be constructed, would require demolition of several properties and also cause even more disruption for the periods of construction.