Four level crossings on the Felixstowe branch line have been successfully upgraded to make crossing the railway safer for all in the Suffolk area.

Roads have reopened to traffic at Westerfield today after seven weeks of work marking the completion of level crossing upgrades at Morston Hall, Thorpe Lane, Levington and Westerfield. This was done as part of a wider programme to increase capacity on the Felixstowe branch line and increase safety of the crossings.

The completion of the upgrade work at Westerfield and Thorpe Lane comes a few months after drivers were caught misusing these level crossings by not stopping for the red warning light and barriers.

At Westerfield, a driver was caught driving through a red light live on camera in October 2018 as a journalist was reporting on Network Rail’s safety campaign to raise awareness of the dangers of misusing level crossings. The driver was caught and ordered to undertake an awareness course.

Another driver was convicted earlier this month for recklessly putting himself and his 18-month old daughter at the time of the incident in danger by swerving around the barriers at Trimley St Martin in Suffolk, both miraculously surviving a crash with a freight train in June 2018.

He admitted endangering safety and was jailed for 16 months, suspended for a year, and given 240 hours of community service and a two-year driving ban.

Drivers are reminded that anyone caught failing to comply with signs at a level crossing can face a fine of up to £1,000 and 3 points on their license, and if they are found guilty of careless driving, they face a fine of up to £1000 and 9 points on their license.

If convicted of dangerous driving, the maximum penalty is two years in prison and a fine.

Meliha Duymaz, Network Rail’s route managing director for Anglia, said: “The completion of this vital work will provide a better and safer branch line for passengers and those using the crossings in Suffolk and we thank everyone for their patience while the work has been carried out.

“Given the recent incidents at these crossings over the last year, it’s so important that all drivers pay attention to the dangers of using any level crossing and ensure that they get to their destination safely.

“It is not worth the risk to ignore the red lights and barriers which are there for your safety and all other road users as the consequences could be life changing.”

Stephen Webster, Inspector, British Transport Police (BTP),  said: “It's really pleasing to see that Network Rail have made significant investment in these level crossings in order to improve safety for users. Level crossings when used correctly are perfectly safe, unfortunately though some people choose to take risks and compromise their safety on crossings. 

“British Transport Police employ a variety of tactics to ensure that people are safe when using level crossings. This includes patrols by uniformed officers, mobile safety enforcement vehicles and working with Network Rail to identify offenders following misuse. The technology on these crossings assists us in detecting offences and offenders and we will continue this activity to ensure compliance now that the crossings have re-opened.

“The message from BTP is simple. Please use level crossings safely and don't take risks. We take misuse seriously and will deal robustly with offenders.”

The four crossings have been upgraded from half barriers to full barriers; three with obstacle detection systems and one with CCTV. These modern level crossings provide additional safety for everyone wishing to cross the railway, either as a motorist or a pedestrian as well as for everyone who uses the railway in the area.

The crossing upgrades are needed to improve safety as the frequency of freight trains using the branch line to and from the Port of Felixstowe is set to increase following the successful construction of new track and signalling systems.