A “near-miss” disaster when an elderly woman was almost hit by a train has led to an emergency closure of a public footpath that runs over a railway line.
But residents in Woburn Sands are now demanding the path be re-opened because it is used as a shortcut by dozens of schoolchildren.
The aptly-named school crossing is 200 yards up the track from Woburn Sands’ barrier-controlled level crossing and has been used as an easy route to two local schools for more than 50 years.
“There are no safety barriers on the school crossing but you can easily see when a train is coming,” said one resident.
Network Rail asked MK Council to issue an emergency closure notice for the footpath last month after a driver had to brake to narrowly miss an elderly lady stepping out onto the track. It was the fitth such near-miss on the track in the past 18 months.
The closure notice has now been extended for a further three weeks, with the prospect of a further six month closure.
“We’re up in arms about it,” said another resident. “Local people and their children are well versed in using the crossing safely. We think this is a move by Network Rail to permanently close it.”
Network Rail say they prefer people to cross at the main level crossing because it is safer. But residents insist this is more dangerous as it involves crossing a perilous road.
The ideal solution, say townspeople, would be for Network Rail to build a footbridge over the school crossing - a scheme for which they were granted planning permission back in 2016.
A Network Rail spokesman said today: “We had no choice but to close the footpath. There was almost a terrible accident because an elderly lady stepped out onto the track when a train was coming. The driver applied the emergency brake, but if the lady had not spotted him and stepped back he would have hit her.”
She said Network Rail is planning to re-open the crossing soon, but with additional safety measures in place, including perhaps a crossing patrol warden,
They are also negotiating with a nearby landowner in order to start building the footbridge.
"The building of the footbridge will be part of the East West Rail Scheme, which we will hopefully be able to start by the end of the year," said the spokesman.