In case you haven’t heard yet, Kent County Council are planning to close the pedestrian crossing over the railway line between Glebe Way and Clifton Road in Whitstable.
This is being done at the request of Network Rail, who cite safety issues. These include: the high level of use and the time it takes to cross; possible difficulties in the sighting of trains, and the suggestion that the sound of trains might be obscured by background noise, amongst other things.
I have to say this last one seems a little exaggerated as neither Clifton Road nor Glebe Way are busy, and I can’t imagine a time when the hiss of the wind or the twittering of bird song would be loud enough to drown out the roar of a passing train.
But I do understand why this is being done. Network Rail refer to 33 incidents between 1998 and 2016, including four fatalities. The most recent of these was the death of a schoolgirl in 2015, who was hit by a train while listening to music on headphones.
There was also the spate of suicides back in 2011, and at least one attempted suicide, plus a number of near misses. It’s obvious that it is a dangerous crossing.
But does this mean that it has to be closed? Wouldn’t it be more intelligent – and just as effective – to increase safety measures at the crossing?
For instance, there could be gates which are locked automatically when triggered by an approaching train. There could be flashing lights, and a louder horn. This is the method used on roads when they cross railway lines. There are barriers which come down and stop the traffic from moving. Why can’t something similar be applied to a pedestrian crossing?
Or are we saying that pedestrians are less important than car drivers and are therefore entitled to less money being spent on them?
This is an immensely popular route, followed by tens of thousands of people every year. In March 2015 Network Rail did a survey which showed that the crossing was used, on average, 201 times a day. That amounts to 73,000 crossings a year, or 1.3 million crossings over the period in which they themselves note only 33 incidents.
The alternative route is said to be the bridge crossing the line 200 yards down the track. 200 yards doesn’t sound too far. But this doesn’t take into account where the other path leads: to Alexandra Road and Joy Lane, not to Glebe Way. It’s at least a mile further, which would not please pensioners or the disabled. It also involves climbing steps, which would be impossible for many.
The footpath is a right of way. It was there before the railway. It was probably there before much of Whitstable was built and, despite the fact it is designated on the map as Footpaths CW80 and CWX40 combined, it’s obvious that it is, in reality, a continuation of Glebe Way itself, which cuts off from Canterbury Road, and runs in a continuous line to Portway and West Cliff, and from there to the beach.
The Glebe Way estate is a recent addition to the landscape.
A “glebe” was a piece of land which provided income for the clergy; but its more ancient meaning is simply “land” or “fields”.
Thus “Glebe Way” could be understood as a route through to our understanding of ourselves and our relationship to land and history.
If you would like to object to the closure please write to Mrs Maria McLauchlan at firstname.lastname@example.org, or via Invicta House, County Hall, Maidstone ME14 1XX. The closing date is 07/012/18.
From The Whitstable Gazette 29/11/18
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