After months of careful examination, Network Rail has announced its preferred option for replacing a level crossing in Ufton Nervet will be a bridge. The crossing is due to be renewed and Network Rail has studied the feasibility of all the options available including replacing the crossing with a road bridge, an underpass or installing full-barriers. The company’s preferred choice is to close the crossing and replace it with a bridge as this option eliminates all risk.
The company will work closely with land owners, the local authority and residents to take this preferred option forward. It does not own the land by the crossing and planning and highways consent will be required.
Patrick Hallgate, Network Rail route managing director, said: “We have a once-in-a generation opportunity to make changes at Ufton Nervet as part of our plans to re-signal and electrify the line.
“It is our view that we have a strong case to close the crossing and replace it with a road bridge. Every crossing that we close removes the risk of a person or vehicle being struck by a train and improves safety for everyone on the railway and for those who travel across it.
“Closing a level crossing is not an easy process and it is not something that we can do alone. To make this happen, we will need the support of land owners, the local authority and local people. We will look to their support as we look to continue improving safety and upgrading the rail network for the future.”
Ufton Nervet level crossing is located between Aldermaston and Theale and in the last few months Network Rail has examined a number of options for it. Network Rail is funded to provide a like-for-like replacement at this location and to build a road bridge it will need to secure additional funding.
Network Rail considered the following options:
(i) Closing the crossing and replacing it with a road bridge
This is Network Rail’s preferred choice. The land surrounding the crossing is open farmland, making it possible to build a road bridge at this site. Every time a path or the road meets the railway there is a risk and Network Rail considers that a bridge at this location would improve safety and eliminate this risk. Although the annual cost of maintaining a road bridge and a full-barrier crossing are similar, the life span of a bridge is much longer than a level crossing, strengthening the case for this option.
(ii) Installing a full barrier crossing at Ufton Nervet
This option would enhance safety and is less expensive to install than a road bridge. While there is still a crossing, a level of risk remains and that is why Network Rail’s preferred option is to close it and replace the crossing with a bridge.
(iii) Closing the crossing and replacing it with an underpass
Providing an underpass would have similar safety benefits to a bridge, but it is considered that this scheme would incur considerably higher costs than the other available options. The crossing is close to the river and canal which means that the underpass would need to be designed to eliminate the flood risk, therefore the costs of this option would be grossly disproportionate to the benefits. It would not provide the best value for money.
The next step for Network Rail is to develop the bridge plan further, including looking at land purchase, designs and funding.