One man who cares more than most about Harrogate’s railway service and the Starbeck crossing is ex-chief executive of Harorgate and District of Commerce, Brian Dunsby, OBE.
After the Harrogate Advertiser reported on Harrogate resident Trevor Dole's detailed report on how he thought barrier times at the main Starbeck crossing could be reduced for the benefit of motorists, Mr Dunsby said it was time Network Rail acted.
The spokesperson of Harrogate Line Supporters Group, pictured, said: “The Starbeck level crossing causes recurring delays to traffic on the busy Knaresborough Road.
“The current schedule shows 33 trains per day stopping at Starbeck in each direction.
“Whilst the trains in each direction are scheduled to coincide, they often do not, so that the gates are kept closed waiting for the “late” train to arrive.
“This results in long queues of traffic held up on both sides of the crossing. This is of particular concern when ambulances, buses, taxis and commercial, delivery vehicles are kept waiting for an extended time.
“My understanding of the current operation of the crossing is that the train from Harrogate is not allowed to begin to move towards Knaresborough until the gates at the Starbeck crossing are closed – which means at least a scheduled four minutes wait.
“Likewise in the opposite direction, the train cannot leave Knaresborough until the Starbeck crossing gates are closed – which means at least a scheduled three minutes wait. The obvious solution is for extra stop signals to be installed closer to Starbeck Station on each side of the crossing.
"As the plans by Network Rail to double-track the Harrogate line between Knaresborough and Poppleton have been delayed due to lack of funding, it should, therefore, be a necessary interim step to install the extra signals needed to enable the waiting time for traffic at Starbeck level crossing to be significantly reduced.”
Starbeck crossing: What Network Rail says
But the organisation in charge of operating the nation’s railway infrastructure, including the level crossing at Starbeck, Network Rail says there are no easy solutions to the barrier delays.
A Network Rail spokesperson said: “We are aware of the issue of barrier downtime at Starbeck level crossing and we appreciate the impact that this can have on users.
“We actually do regular inspections of the level crossing every 12 weeks.
“Safety is Network Rail’s top priority and the barriers must remain in the down position when a train uses the crossing to protect the safety of motorists, pedestrians and those travelling on trains.
“The performance of the crossing is regularly reviewed and we are doing all that we can to keep barrier downtime to a minimum.
“This includes a collaborative approach by the rail industry to design the timetable so that as many trains as possible pass each other at the level crossing, which minimises the number of times that the barriers need to be lowered.
“Network Rail has also investigated whether improvements to the crossing or the signalling would reduce the amount of time the barriers remain in the down position.
“These investigations have found that an upgrade of this type would not decrease this downtime.
“Network Rail has done a lot of work to minimise barrier downtime at this level crossing and will continue to do so.
“For example, we have designed the timetable so that the barriers only need to be lowered and raised once as opposed to twice if the trains didn’t pass at the same time.”
Starbeck crossing: What Andrew Jones MP says
Harrogate and Knaresborough MP Andrew Jones, a junior transport for rail, said: “This is a very detailed analysis of the infrastructure at Starbeck Level Crossing and I commend Mr Dale on his work. As someone who has worked in Starbeck I am aware of the inconvenience caused when the crossing is closed. Ultimately, the safety of the travelling public must be the priority.
“Network Rail has done a lot of work to help minimise disruption to drivers and must continue to do so.”
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