DRIVERS face even longer delays at a notorious level crossing when new passenger train services are intoduced in May.
Barriers at the Tallington crossing on the A16 between Stamford and the Deepings are often down for more than 40 minutes in the hour, causing long tailbacks for commuters and buses. It also holds up the emergency services.
Train operator East Coast will introduce 19 new services on May 22. This is in addition to the 152 it operates along the route, all of which will pass through the crossing.
A survey conducted by Lincolnshire County Council’s highways department this month found that between 7am and 7pm on two separate days the barriers were down for an average of 31 minutes every hour, with 90 closures over the period.
The worst hour, between 2pm and 3pm, over the two days saw the barriers closed for 40 minutes out of 60.
Stamford MP Nick Boles said: “It’s a worry that because of the increased number of trains going through the crossing, the barrier will be open for shorter periods and the delays and tailbacks will be greater.
“It’s a thorny problem to which there is no immediate solution.
“People have been campaigning for a solution for the best part of 15 years, when finances were ample, and they have not been successful so far.”
“The difficulty is that we are in a time of intense constraint on public finances. It is hard to see how anything will happen at this time.”
Talk of a bypass around the village with a bridge over the railway tracks has been going on for some time, but no solution has been reached.
High-level meetings have been held over the last couple of months involving MPs, county councillors and transport bosses to try and tackle the issue, but they have come to nothing.
The county council’s highways manager Brian Thompson said: “We would love something to happen at Tallington but we see it as a partnership solution, working with Network Rail. We don’t see it as something we should have to fund by ourselves. The council
is willing to talk to anyone who can come up with a solution.”
Tallington parish councillor Ken Otter, of Church Lane, has been lobbying Network Rail bosses in an attempt to stop the new services without any success.
He said: “The extra 19 trains are certain to close the gaps that vehicles currently use to dash across the crossing and delays of up to an hour can be expected during the whole of the working week.”
A Network Rail spokesman said: “The new services will bring additional times when the crossing is activated but these will be spread throughout the day so impact will be low.
“Network Rail has met Mr Otter and other interested parties on several occasions to explore the feasibility of providing an alternative crossing over the railway.
“We have confirmed that we do not have the funds to contribute towards a new bridge or any associated link roads.
“The county council has accepted that the traffic congestion at this crossing is a highways issue as opposed to an issue that the railway industry can resolve in isolation.”
A spokesman for East Coast said: “Because the 19 new services will be spread throughout the day, we do not believe they will significantly increase the time barriers are down at the level crossing at any one point.”