Fed up council threatens injunction against Network Rail over closure of Milton Keynes railway crossing

Legal action has been threatened by Milton Keynes Council in a dispute with Network Rail over the closure of a level crossing.

By David Tooley, local democracy reporter
Tuesday, 10th November 2020, 2:46 pm
Updated Tuesday, 10th November 2020, 2:50 pm

Furious locals in Woburn Sands have been up in arms following the closure in August of the School Crossing, which links Cranfield Road with Swallowfield Lower School.

This week Network Rail said it had “no choice” but to close the crossing because of “seven people nearly being hit by a train in the last two years.” That has been contested by parents.

Now the council has called on Network Rail to re-open the crossing because the diversion route close to the railway station is itself dangerous.

The level crossing was closed in the summer

In a strongly worded legal letter sent from Milton Keynes Council on November 4, the council has called for a reply by November 10 or it will launch an injunction.

The letter says the council will “not hesitate” to take action if Network Rail does not respond.

The letter signed by Stuart Proffitt, the council’s director of environment and property, says: “We would suggest it is undesirable for two public authorities to engage in costly and time-consuming action, particularly so when the local authority is responding to a pandemic and has finite resources and funds that should be directed to that effort rather than disputes amongst public bodies.

“That said, however, in light of our significant concerns as to the safety implications of NR’s actions we will not hesitate to take action if necessary.”

The council believes Network Rail has breached the terms of an order made by the Secretary of State that it should have agreed an alternative before closing the crossing.

And they add that the action is also a breach of planning permission which was granted for improvements needed for the relaunch of the East West Rail route.

The letter adds: “We therefore request that you reconsider your current course of action, immediately re open “School Crossing Woburn Sands” so as to remove the road safety risk you have created and engage with MKC regarding the design of the required mitigation measures so that the crossing may be closed at the appropriate stage.”

The last straw for the council is understood to have been a meeting held on November 3 at which Network Rail maintained its position.

A spokesperson for Network Rail said it and the council had held “positive” meetings but maintained its position.

Network Rail, in a statement, said: “We had no choice but to close the footpath crossing to Swallowfield Lower School, with seven people nearly being hit by a train in the last two years.

“Keeping people safe on the railway is our number one priority.”

“Our recent meetings with Milton Keynes council have been positive as we work with them to address local feedback on the roads up to the alternative crossing on Newport Road.”

The Milton Keynes based organisation, which looks after the nation’s railway infrastructure, insisted it has met legal requirements.

But the statement added: “As a gesture of goodwill, we are willing and happy to work with Milton Keynes to come up with a solution on their highways.”