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National spotlight centres on Spalding freight problems



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Fed-up motorists have been warned not to ‘hold their breath’ for a level crossing fix - as Spalding’s issues fall under the national spotlight.

The troubles the town is having with congestion when the barriers are down feature in the current issue of Rail - an influential industry publication.

In recent months, Spalding councillors have called for Network Rail to come up with a solution for a problem that leaves the town cut in half.

Spalding's level crossing woes featured in Rail magazine (57487708)
Spalding's level crossing woes featured in Rail magazine (57487708)

The matter was thrown into sharp focus this week - with rail strikes meaning that Tuesday saw no freight trains pass through Spalding, with clearer than normal traffic as a result.

Cowbit-born Howard Johnston - a senior advising consultant to the transport industry who wrote the piece for Rail - told this paper: “Spalding shouldn’t hold its breath for short-term improvements because of the awkwardness of the Winsover Road location, justification for the multi-million pound cost, and the tight squeezes on government capital investment across all sectors. Local councillors just stamping their feet sadly won’t have much effect.

“Network Rail is Government-owned, so whatever sympathy its senior managers may extend to South Holland councillors, it is not empowered to spend public money on such projects without lengthy appraisals and preparation of detailed business cases.”

Spalding's level crossing woes featured in Rail magazine (57487720)
Spalding's level crossing woes featured in Rail magazine (57487720)

Mr Johnston, who worked for this newspaper in the 1970s, explained the difficulties in coming up with a solution in Spalding.

In his piece for Rail he explained: “To construct a new rail-over road or road over-rail bridge, it might require half a mile of gradient adjustment ether side of the crossing.

“For rail this would certainly involve the demolition and relocation of the station, while the loss of many properties means that the road option is also impractical.

Traffic in Spalding
Traffic in Spalding

“A dive-under maybe? Not really. Spalding is in the flat Fens, where the threat of flooding is ever present.”

He believes diverting the railway around the town is ‘dreamland’ - and flagged up busier crossings such as the one in Lincoln that are likely to be a bigger priority.

Brylaine Travel managing director Marrianne Garbutt, who saw the article and has to contend with congestion affecting bus services, said: “It comes to something when it’s in Rail saying how bad it is in Spalding.”

Steve Hopkinson, East Midlands Operations Director for Network Rail said: “After hearing people’s concerns, we reviewed all six of Spalding’s level crossings and we were pleased to find no significant faults with our equipment.

“In fact, the amount of issues we deal with has almost halved since 2016, so we know we’re heading in the right direction but there’s still some way to go. I’d like to apologise to anybody who has been held up by our level crossings.

“We want to keep the road open for drivers as long as we safely can, while also keeping passengers and freight moving. We’re constantly monitoring our crossings and looking at ways to help them run better and to reduce the length of time the barriers are down, and we’ll continue to do this to provide the best service we can for the community.”



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