Rail crossing point looks set to close

A footpath crossing over the high speed London to Brighton railway is to be closed after a fatal accident and three near misses involving people crossing the line.

But users of the footpath say an alternative must be found before the crossing point is closed, despite concern about its safety.

A walker tries to cross the double lines across the London to Brighton line at Balcombe

A walker tries to cross the double lines across the London to Brighton line at Balcombe

The footpath goes over two tracks of the main London to Brighton commuter line at Kemps Farm, just off the B2036, to the south of Balcombe Railway Station.

Southern and First Capital Connect trains are travelling at high speed at the access point, which is close to Balcombe Viaduct between the village and Haywards Heath.

The High Weald countryside around, which is an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, is frequented by rambling groups as well as local people.

A Network Rail spokesman said: “As part of our commitment to make the railway safer, we want to close as many level crossings as possible.

“We have approached the parish council to discuss the future of this crossing and are in discussions with local landowners about finding an alternative way to cross the railway.”

At a parish council meeting Clive Robey, a risk assessor for Network Rail, cited three near misses at the crossing and a fatality in 1975.

He said Network Rail wanted to divert the footpath via an existing tunnel further south and discussions were taking place with the landowner, Balcombe Estate.

Mr Robey said the crossing would not be closed until a diversion was in place. At other sites footbridges had been built to resolve similar issues, he said.

On the parish council’s website one walker, June Kite, writing for a rambling group from Crawley, says members were most concerned to hear about the footpath crossing point possibly closing.

She writes: “This we would object to strenuously, we know that this is a very fast line, extra care is taken by us.”

She adds that the walkers would welcome the footpath re-routing but only to a reasonable distance from the village where they use the shops, pub and tea rooms.

Balcombe Estate sub-agent Ben Skinner said the estate accepted that the crossing was dangerous but did not believe the alternative suggested, via the tunnel, was acceptable.

He said: “The easiest solution would be to put a footbridge over the railway line.”

See the Mid Sussex Times website at www.mid
sussextimes.co.uk for a video showing a high-speed train and a walker at the footpath crossing at Kemps Farm.