Kirknewton Community Council are engaged in a continuous conversation with Network Rail, the Office of the Rail Regulator, West Lothian Council and local, national and UK politicians on the matter of the rail crossing and access over the railway line.
Whether we are making progress or indeed getting nowhere is hard to judge.
The basic facts are that Level Crossings are a UK matter, for which the Secretary of State for Transport, etc holds responsibility and to whom we have been lobbying via Hannah Bardell.
Network Rail infrastructure expenditure in Scotland is provided by the Scottish Government, in particular SESTrans, South East Scotland Transport, to whom we have been lobbying via Angela Constance, for amongst other options a non DDA compliant foot bridge.
The road, B 7031, is a WLC responsibility and it is both a vehicular and pedestrian thoroughfare, for which there are obligations to maintain access. In WLC’s local strategy, it is significant as a commercial vehicle route from the A70 and A71, and needs to be kept open.
The ORR has the power under the Railways Acts to permanently close off the B7031, if in their view vehicle behaviour is a significant risk to the safe passage of a train.
Under the Order in Council, permitting the level crossing design to be changed from single gates on each approach to double gates, for which Network Rail agreed to a number of obligations, a consultative group was set up between Network Rail, WLC and KCC to enable concerns etc to be exchanged. So far this group has met 3 times, but without any progress being achieved on resolving the difficulties with the level crossing.
A non DDA compliant bridge would not appear to meet NetworkRail policy standards. A DDA compliant bridge will take up a vast amount of land, will be very high because of the need to get buses over the crossing without touching the electrical conductors for the trains and will/has been subject to much very local objection. A tunnel under the track was abandoned on the grounds of technical and property ownership difficulties and therefore enormous cost. A pathway to Kirknewton on the north side has hit land ownership barriers.
Finally there is no money.
This is an impasse of such proportions that it is really difficult to contemplate a solution. Of course, approval of the Calderwood Master Plan was partially predicated on a transport strategy majoring on making use of Kirknewton Station. Therefore Ministers and Local Authorities have obligations, responsibilities and duties.
Joining up the CC influence at East Calder and to Kirknewton will surely enhance our joint power in the debate. The Kirknewton CC have indicated to East Calder CC they would welcome this enormously.
We see theonly one way forward that has any chance of flying, namely the construction of a non DDA compliant footbridge, for which the grounds are to limit the risk of frustrated able bodied types, going onto the ends of the platforms, squeezing through the gaps in the security fencing and jumping over the tracks. A recent death was enabled by the existence of these gaps. Accompanying this should be some sort of weather resistant shelter, for disabled passengers, with a form of communication to the rail operator (Scotrail), both to prevent them freezing and also to get rescued.
We have also been arguing for some form of signage at the traffic lights on the main road to advise motorists and commercial drivers that the level- crossing is out of order and that they all should go via Wilkieston to get to Kirknewton and beyond. Similarly at the southern entrance to Kirknewton. Given adequate warning there is no reason for traffic to get stuck at the crossing. There are adequate turning facilities at both sides for buses to deliver their passengers without dumping them in the wet or cold or dark, etc. Of course there would be delay, but such is not unusual anyway.
If the B7031 had not been of such strategic significance to West Lothian, the best option then might have been to have closed the level-crossing permanently in conjunction with a footbridge and pedestrian gated DDA path over the crossing.
We’d still urge local people to let their voices be heard to their local representatives which will support the work Kirknewton Community Council are doing on this matter.