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'We need our crossing' say allotment-holders at Aristotle Lane grounds
ALLOTMENT holders have hit out at Network Rail which is planning to close a level crossing leading to their plots.
Because of major work set to be carried out by Network Rail over the coming years, the amount of rail traffic going through the Aristotle Lane level crossing in North Oxford is projected to double, from around 11 trains per hour to up to 22 by 2019.
Plans for the rail line include electrification, the redevelopment of Oxford station and a new line going to London Marylebone and this will mean there will be more trains.
They will also be going at 90mph – 20mph faster than they do now.
And rail bosses say this means the level crossing has to go.
But Chalfont Road resident Tony Hollander, chairman of the Trap Ground allotments, said the crossing was not unsafe.
He said: “The allotments are a real local amenity and they are in a beautiful place on the edge of Port Meadow.
“Network Rail has this great scheme of electrification and the lure of a nice, shiny station in Oxford but the price for all these goodies is closing the crossing and they say we cannot have our station with our crossing.
“They are threatening not to go ahead with the whole thing if Aristotle Lane is not closed.
“Oldies who love the allotments are going to have problems and it is not just the question of wheeling your bags of manure over the bridge, it is the huffing and puffing of the slope.”
At the moment there is a footbridge to the south of the level crossing which leads to Port Meadow but this will be rebuilt at a higher level to allow for the electrification of the line to take place.
The issue of closing off this level crossing had already been considered in the 1990s and again in 2002 and on both occasions it remained open.
In order to compensate for the loss of the level crossing Network Rail has said it will rebuild the Aristotle Lane footbridge, the only other way to Port Meadow from Aristotle Lane.
There will also be a new car park, although it is not yet known how many spaces it will provide.
A report to Oxford City Council’s executive board, which approved the proposals on Wednesday, February 13, stated: “Network Rail and the Department for Transport have made it clear to the city council that retaining the Aristotle Lane crossing would, theoretically, prevent the Government’s enhancement plans for the Oxford area and transport corridor from going ahead.
“Overall it is considered that the city council has no real choice.”
It was agreed that the city council would surrender its rights over the footpath but that it will only be closed once the improvements have been carried out to the bridge.
Network Rail spokesman Sam Kelly said: “There are major enhancements planned for the railway in Oxford.
“This investment will result in more capacity, trains travelling at higher speeds and an increase in the number of passenger and freight services – these factors represent an increase in risk of someone being struck by a train.
“It is right that we manage this risk and the best way to do this is to close the crossing.”
She confirmed that in the past 10 years there had been no fatalities at the crossing and only one near miss, in 2008.