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Safety watchdog defends Wem level crossing despite problems

North Shropshire | News | Published:

There is only a low risk of danger at Wem's busy level crossing despite problems with the barriers, safety experts have said.

The Office of Rail and Road has said the crossing in Aston Street meets high safety standards and that it is much safer than it was before, when there was a signalman controlling it.

The response was prompted following a complaint by Wem resident Keith Iddles.

Wem crossing has been mired in controversy since it became automated in October 2013, regularly causing traffic tailbacks.

The latest problem happened in March when automatic safety barriers failed to close despite flashing lights warning of an approaching train.

Network Rail said the barriers did not go down because of a temporary road diversion sign causing an obstruction, and the train went through at a reduced speed.

Previous problems have included a signal fault which caused the crossing to slam shut for three hours, causing massive tailbacks.

Mr Iddles said: "For 57 years before moving into Wem town, I travelled daily across the level crossing, safe in the knowledge that the expert eyes and the skilled hands of the signalman in his box, gave me safe passage at all times.

It is about time a permanent signalman in his box is re-established."

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A spokesman for the Office for Rail and Road said: "We can understand why people in Wem are concerned by recent incidents, but we believe the resulting safety risk to be low. The train signalling system prevents a train from approaching at speed when the barriers are raised.

"If the barriers are not fully closed, the protecting signal from each direction will remain at red, which in turn activates the system which will automatically trigger a train's brakes if it passes the signal. This system has very high reliability. We disagree with your assertion that the crossing was safer before changes were made."

More than 300 people have now joined the Wem Train Station Safer group which is calling for new safety measures.

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