Waveney MP Peter Aldous, along with business leaders James Reeder and Richard Perkins, and Suffolk County Council Leader Mark Bee, Transport Portfolio Holder Graham Newman and Waveney District Council Leader Colin Law last week met Transport Minister Stephen Hammond and senior officials from Network Rail to provide a progress report on plans to reduce the time that the level crossing barriers at Oulton Broad North Station are down when trains are either approaching or in the station and to emphasise the importance of work taking place as soon as possible to address the problem.
At present the barrier are down for approximately 3½ minutes during which time significant congestion builds up.
The problem was raised with the Minister when he was in Lowestoft in September to open the new bus/rail interchange at Lowestoft Station. Subsequently there have been discussions with Network Rail as to how best to address the problem and a meeting has taken place on site to see the congestion at first hand and to discuss how it can be reduced. Network Rail will have finalised conceptual plans next month after which time funding sources will be identified.
The forthcoming re-signalling of the line will help, whilst if further works are carried out including the repositioning of the stop board and extending the platform, then a significant reduction in the time that the barriers are down could well be achieved.
Peter Aldous commented: “The purpose of the meeting was to provide the Minister with an update on an issue in which he has expressed a personal interest and to obtain his continued personal support for what we are doing. Once the scheme has been finalised, I shall be doing all I can to ensure that the necessary funding is secured so that the work is done as quickly as possible. The congestion which at present occurs is extremely frustrating and does not help attract business to the area”.
James Reeder said: “Reducing the time that the barriers are down will bring immediate relief to a huge number of people commuting in and out of town and make our businesses more efficient. The solution is to move one of the signals and bring the unused section of platform back into use. The Minister was very sympathetic and accepted that removing congestion is key to economic growth within Lowestoft. However, we must be very mindful of ensuring the highest levels of safety at all our level crossings.”
Richard Perkins, Suffolk Chamber of Commerce representative on the New Anglia LEP Local Transport Forum, commented: “Lowestoft is a town that is currently addressing a number of economic and employment challenges. Good transport links and infrastructure enhancements are essential as we progress, with improvements like this being fundamental to making a success of the opportunities that will be derived from the Enterprise Zone and Assisted Area Status.”
Councillor Graham Newman, Suffolk County Council's cabinet member for roads and transport, said: “Bridge Road and Normanston Drive are part of the A1117, which forms the key alternative route around Lowestoft. It both bypasses the Bascule Bridge and links into the soon-to-be-completed Northern Spine road. "In order for this route to be as effective as possible, it is essential we find ways to minimise the down time of the barriers at this level crossing, thus reducing the congestion so often witnessed along this stretch of road.”
Colin Law commented: “The Transport Minister and Network Rail took a positive view of the proposals we presented and I was very encouraged by their support. This has been an issue for some time now and, working together we will do all that we can to help resolve it.”