Right of Way - or not?
We were given to understand that Surrey County Council Rights of Way Department were bringing the question of the Right of Way at Green Lane Unmanned Rail Crossing to Local Committee on 22nd January. The Residents' Association has provided a considerable amount of evidence to Surrey County Council showing the footpaths existed in the 19th Century long before the railway existed. Since then this route has been used as a cattle crossing and pedestrian/cycle crossing. The Right of Way is shown on the SCC Definitive Map as a dotted line across the railway. The stumbling block is the accompanying terrier. This is a manuscript document listing all the Rights of Way and the Green Lane Crossing does not appear on this list. Network Rail maintain the map is in error and the Right of Way should be removed. The ARA maintain the Terrier is in error and the Right of Way should be added. Impasse!
Surrey County Council have appointed an Officer to consider all the evidence and present a recommendation to the Local Committee of MVDC and SCC Councillors. We were told this would happen on 22nd January, but then later told this had been withdrawn as the Council were seeking legal advice.
There is no doubt this will come back to Local Committee when those Ashtead Councillors present (MVDC and SCC) will strongly support the ARA's view that this is a Right of Way. The ARA will have opportinity to review the Report before the Committee and make any further points.
The underlying reason for the argument is that Network Rail have made no bones about saying this crossing and the one at Lady Howard are on their list of High Risk Crossings. Their calculations are simplistic to say the least and basically consist of a measure of trains crossing times pedestrian crossings i.e. 200 trains a day x 220 pedestrian crossings. Their risk profile does not take into account the consequences of the crossing being closed and the extra distances pedestrians would have to walk or cycle to reach their destinations. Schoolchildren would have to run the gauntlett of Woodfield Lane and much of Barnett Wood Lane before reaching the cycle track. Both these roads are busy with rush hour traffic and impatient drivers.
A recent decision by the The High Court of Justice, Queen's Bench Division, Planning Court Case No. CO/3369/2019 seems to offer some hope where the Court found in favour of the Defendants against Network Rail. Details of this Case have forwarded to the Officer dealing with the problem at Surrey County Council and we await seeing his final report which will go before the Local Committee.
The ARA is keeping a close watch on developments and will continue to fight.
The Residents' Association is given to understand that Network Rail is to install new technology at the Green Lane Crossing to highlight those persons using headphones or a mobile phone and thus paying less attention to personal safety.
Following a relatively recent near-miss incident in which a young lady walked in front of a train because she was distracted listening to music on her headphones, this crossing has been chosen by Network Rail as one of the pilot sites for new technology.
Geo fencing allows Network Rail to flag a warning to users as they approach a level crossing. Basically, at 250 meters from a high risk crossing, if the users are using social media or streaming music, the user will get a gentle warning, at 100 meters they will get a more strident warning and at 50 meters they will get a message telling them to remove their headphones and out their device away.
A layman’s explanation of this system is that around the crossing there will be a ‘Virtual’ fence (imagine a doughnut with a bigger doughnut round it and an even bigger one round that). When you step into the biggest doughnut you get a general level crossing safety message but, only if you are on a social network already. The middle doughnut would give a bit of a stronger message and the smallest doughnut would advise you to take your earphones out and put your phone away.
It will never grab the users attention if they are not using their phones. It’s only delivered to people using their phones already. This means Network Rail can target it to our main high risk users. It is emphasised that this still does not negate the risk posed at Green Lane but will aid if and when applicable.
Bearing in mind the circumstances of the near-miss incident this can only make use of the crossing safer for residents.
The crossing is adjudged as High Risk due to the numbers of trains crossing and pedestrian usage. We understand there are on average 221 trains passing each day plus some 200+ pedestrian crossings.
This Right of Way crossing is an essential link between the north and south of Ashtead as evidenced by the average usage, and the Association is grateful to Network Rail for recognising this and seeking to improve safety without resorting to the draconian measure of seeking crossing closure which would be very unpopular.