Dismay at decision to keep Cornish rail-crossing closed

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A public-inquiry inspector has ruled that the footpath across the railway line near Penzance in Cornwall is to remain closed.

The society backed its member, the Friends of Long Rock Mexico Crossing (FOLRMC), the Ramblers and other objectors to the proposed closure of the crossing at the Mexico Inn, Long Rock, Penzance. The case was heard at a seven-day public inquiry in October. Now the inspector, Heidi Cruickshank, has determined that the route should be closed on safety grounds.

This crossing provides an important short-cut for walkers. It has been closed since a fatal accident in October 2011. The alternative route is nearly a kilometre long.

The inspector was required to decide whether it was expedient to close the crossing having regard to all the circumstances and, in particular, to whether it was reasonably practicable to make the crossing safe for use by the public.

Mexico crossing: Long Rock village is to the right, the coast to the left. Photo: Carolyn Trevivian

Mexico crossing: Long Rock village is to the right, the coast to the left. Photo: Carolyn Trevivian

The FOLRMC, the Open Spaces Society and Ramblers gave evidence that the crossing was safe provided users took moderate care; further measures could be taken to make it even more safe; the route was popular and needed by the public to gain access to the beach, and its closure would be detrimental to local businesses. The alternative route was unpleasant and dangerous, along the busy, narrow, Marazion Road.

The inspector says in her report, of the additional distance: ‘I agree that for most people there will be a two-way journey, to and from their home, leading to an overall distance of approximately 1.2 kilometres and time of around 17 minutes. For some users, for example the elderly or those with young children, this would take longer.’ She estimated that this could be a return journey of 25 minutes.

The FOLRMC presented a witness aged 80 who used the crossing regularly. Having seen the sea every week since she was a child she had not now seen it for the two years since the crossing was closed.

The inspector acknowledged that some older people were disadvantaged. However, with an extra 17 minutes for a round trip, the total extra time spent by the community walking the long way round would be more than 20,000 hours.  The inspector refused to accept that this extra time was a severe deterrent to users, meaning that people were no longer crossing the railway to visit the beach, with an additional detrimental effect on their health.

The inspector ruled that greater weight should be given to the safety of individuals over the potential inconvenience and losses identified by the objectors. She concluded that there was a fine balance, but decided to confirm the order so that the path remained closed.

The proposed closure was also opposed by Ludgvan Parish Council, the local county councillor and the Member of Parliament, Andrew George.

Says Kate Ashbrook, our general secretary: ‘We are deeply dismayed by this decision. We believe that some of the evidence presented by Network Rail and Cornwall Council may have been misinterpreted. The Office of Rail Regulation submitted that the crossing was compliant with safety standards, so we cannot see how the inspector can rule that it should be closed.

‘This path is extremely important for local people and visitors. With the other objectors we shall study the decision letter carefully and consider whether we can take the matter further.’

You can read the decision letter here.

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