6th May 2022
Public Meeting on replacing the Hatches Level Crossing
Author: David Whitcroft:
The Hatches Level Crossing Issues Update
Network Rail (NR) held a well attended meeting at Frimley Green Club on 5th May. This was attended by three NR Executives, local residents and councillors and at least three Committee members from the local Resident’s Society.
In anticipation of this meeting, on 27th April Graham O'Connell summarised the Hatches Level Crossing Issues (pdf), having attended
a previous meeting held on 5th April by NR.
The main points to emerge from this meeting were:
NR reiterated their safety concerns regarding the Hatches crossing, claiming it was the 5th ‘riskiest’ crossing out of 300 in the region. They produced photographs of dangerous behaviour to support this position –
some of them featuring fisherman pulling trollies - and stated that NR is currently not meeting its legal duty to protect users of the crossing. There had been 7 ‘near misses’ (train drivers having to apply emergency brakes)
in the past 5 years. Trains travel at 40mph approaching the crossing point.
Whilst they discussed 6 rejected options (including miniature stop lights which were rejected for the location on grounds of practicality and cost) it was clear that NR have determined that a ramped bridge,
located at Spencer Close, is the only solution they are prepared to consider.
Regarding the bridge:
NR claim it will not be possible to ride bikes on the ramps due to the possible use of chicanes (therefore eliminating danger from bikes to pedestrians) but the stairs will feature gutters to allow bikes to be easily wheeled.
Segregation of cyclists and pedestrians on the bridge had been rejected on cost grounds.
The ramp gradient will be 1:20 which is less steep then required by highway rules and the ramps will feature high and low level handrails.
When queried about the use of the bridge by less mobile individuals NR implied that such persons would not be able to easily use the bridge but that it would be safer for these individuals than the existing arrangements.
NR also claimed that injury risks on bridges which are provided with anti-slip surfaces and low-level lighting (slipping, sliding, tripping etc) were relatively minor compared to level crossing accidents.
The land for the bridges at Spencer Close has NOT yet been purchased (from Surrey Heath Borough Council - SHBC) by NR.
Compensation for inconvenience etc caused to Spencer Close residents by the new bridge is unlikely to be paid by NR who pointed out that privacy, parking issues etc will form part of the Planning process once a planning application
for the bridge is submitted.
NR have apparently agreed in principle to provide the fishing lakes in the Hatches with a carpark and new access which should greatly reduce usage of the Hatches crossing point. Residents reasonably pointed out that this would surely impact the risk assessments
regarding bridge usage, but NR did not respond to this point.
NR did, however, agree to provide local councillor, Cliff Betton, with full details of the technical risk assessment undertaken on the project (on which they claimed to have been working for 7 years) so he could disseminate details to residents.
NR will be proposing that the retention of the East Curve (land owned by SHBC) be removed from the Local Plan which means that East Curve development will not impact the Hatches Crossing proposals.
Using the proposed bridge will add about 500m (each way) for users of the crossing point.
Whilst, unlike the previous meeting on 5th April, the quality of the meeting was reasonable, the NR executives failed to convince residents of the benefits of the new bridge. In this regard, they were unable to deal effectively
with many of the detailed issues raised by residents and councillors.
No specific risk assessment details associated with bridges (suicides, objects thrown on to rails, risk of muggings etc on blind spots caused by bridge corners) were presented to the meeting.
It was made very clear that NR’s ‘consultation’ exercise is not about whether to provide a bridge – since the bridge is the only option (including the status quo) on the table – but rather about the impacts that the bridge will
have on the local community. No further light was thrown on the risk assessment details although point 5 above MAY help in that regard.
It was also made clear that notwithstanding the years already spent by NR on this project, the provision of the bridge is in the very early stages with no detailed bridge designs yet produced, no pre-application discussions yet
undertaken with SHBC and no land purchases made to date.
It seems likely, therefore, that it will be many months – if not years – before the changes to the Hatches crossing are made.
View of the Proposed Footbridge from Spencer Close
View of the Proposed Footbridge from South of Spencer Close
The Proposed Route from Spencer Close Bridge connecting to the Hatches Pathway