Changes to Lindsells Level Crossing, Biggleswade
Network Rail proposes to replace the current level crossing with a bridleway bridge and make improvements to the local public rights of way network.
Biggleswade Bridleway No. 11 uses the level crossing to cross the four tracks of the East Coast Main Line and is a means for walkers, cyclists and equestrians to cross the railway. Network Rail identifies this crossing as a high-risk crossing and is looking to install a bridge to improve safety.
We plan to use the £5 million funding awarded from central government (Housing Infrastructure Fund) to fund a bridge to replace the crossing.
The current proposal, subject to planning and meeting central government funding conditions, is to site the new bridleway bridge approximately 385 metres to the north of the current crossing. The new bridge is currently proposed to have doubled-back ramps of approximately 185 metres long each side and have a height of approximately 8 metres above the track. The total diversion length, including the ramps, would therefore be approximately 1,200 metres.
Possible changes to footpaths and bridleways
We're taking this opportunity to improve the local public rights of way network by creating new pedestrian and cycling/equestrian connections, as part of the Biggleswade Green Wheel and will extinguish a number of routes that we consider not needed for public use. There are a number of possible options for changes to footpaths and bridleways that we are exploring.
Along with Network Rail, we have considered feedback from a drop-in exhibition in September 2019. At this session there was strong support for a replacement bridge (63 people with 22 opposing it), but mixed views on proposed location (33 people for and 53 against). This was mainly on the grounds of the additional distance required to walk to the bridge.
In line with a 2014 public consultation, which established the proposed location of the bridge 380 metres north of the current crossing, there were no issues raised in the feedback significant enough to change that location.
The current crossing, as it is at ground level, has no impact on the Grade II listed property, Shortmead House and its grounds. Replacing the crossing with a 7.8-metre high bridge would have a detrimental effect on the immediate environment of an important part of Biggleswade’s built heritage.
Rights of way
We also consulted on changes to the surrounding public rights of way network. Some are necessary for the new bridge and will be taken forward.
The upgrading of existing footpaths to bridleways on the eastern side of the railway line was supported so will be taken forward.
In terms of the proposal to close Footpath No. 19 and Footpath No. 15 more people opposed these proposals than supported them.
The proposal to close the section of Bridleway No. 11 was supported by feedback, including from the British Horse Society and the Joint Local Access Forum.
In terms of the proposal to divert Bridleways Nos. 60 and 11 (along the Shortmead House driveway), the feedback responses were almost entirely opposed to this. The bridleway and Green Wheel will remain as is.
There was opposition to the closure of Footpath No. 19. A kissing gate has allowed members of the public to use this as part of a “circular” walk. We will seek to formalise its connection with the nearby Footpath No. 17 via a short footpath link.
The British Horse Society suggests connection to the new bridge should follow the route of Footpath No. 19 on the west side of the solar farm, rather than alongside the railway line. A possible version of this revised layout is shown on the enclosed plan. We are currently exploring this option further.
What happens next?
The design of the bridge still needs to be finalised. Once a design has been established, Network Rail will need to undertake a pre-application consultation with us to establish whether there are any major issues which would need to be addressed before a formal planning application was submitted. This of course will be another opportunity for the public to comment.
In parallel, we will conduct a second drop-in session to consult on a revised rights of way scheme which would be delivered in two phases.
The closure of the crossing and construction of the new bridge and connecting bridleway.
The improvement of the surrounding rights of way network.