Rail death led to £4m bridge plan

An elderly man on a mobility scooter was hit by a train and killed at the Shipwrights Way crossing in 2016 ()

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A NEW £4 million Bentley station footbridge with lifts is the only way to deal with safety issues at two level crossings near the station, according to Network Rail.

The organisation responsible for railway infrastructure outlined the plan – which would also close the Alice Holt and Buckhorn Oak footpath crossings – at a public consultation in Bentley Memorial Hall.

Mobility scooter user Derek Thomas, 83, was killed at the Alice Holt crossing on October 5, 2016, and project manager Becky Gray said: “These crossings are near the top of the unsafe list. It will be an access for all footbridge, with steps, a lift and cycle gutters up the stairs. The key driver is safety.”

Network Rail hopes to open it in 2023 and remove the old one. The cost includes maintenance and it should last 120 years.

Around 50 people attended the informal consultation, which Network Rail said it held because of “the sensitivity of the site” near homes and a butterfly conservation area.

Responding to questions, Network Rail said there was no land for ramps to a footbridge, manned gates needed operating from a signal box, magnetic unmanned gates risked trapping people, warning lights did not stop people “using the crossing in an unsafe manner” and a tunnel held an “inherent risk of digging into something which would cause more problems than it would resolve”.

Brunel railway embankments were built quickly, so a tunnel under Victorian earthwork was “risky and disruptive” and would require a £300,000 inspection every five years.

A member of the public said: “You said we had options but you’ve shut every one down.”

A second public consultation will be held at Bentley Memorial Hall on November 23 at 7.30pm.

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