Closure of the public footpath level crossing at Gipsy Lane, Needham Market.

This forms part of our ongoing commitment to deliver a safer, more efficient and reliable railway.

The Gipsy Lane Level crossing is on the Liverpool Street to Norwich line.  This section of the line is heavily trafficked by services to Ipswich, Bury St Edmunds, Cambridge and Norwich, together with freight services to Felixstowe.  The line is extremely busy with approximately 8 trains per hour.  The crossing provides access to public footpaths and recreational walking routes adjacent to the River Gipping leading to Creeting St Mary.

Gipsy Lane level crossing is a passive Stop, Look & Listen level crossing with kissing gates. There have been a number of incidents in the past, including a fatal incident in August 2011 and several near misses.

Network Rail has classified Gipsy Lane level crossing as a higher risk crossing and is therefore seeking to replace it.

The key reasons for seeking to close Gipsy Lane level crossing are as follows:

  • Gipsy Lane Level Crossing is an uncontrolled Stop, Look and Listen crossing with kissing gates.
  • There have been a number of incidents in the past including a fatal accident in August 2011 and several near misses. Network Rail has classified Gipsy Lane as a higher risk level crossing and is therefore seeking to replace it.
  • As part of safety measures put in place following previous incidents, the nearby Willow Walk level crossing (Footpath 6) is temporarily out of use, with users diverted to Gipsy Lane. This increases risk at Gipsy Lane and therefore a solution enabling permanent closure of both crossings is now sought.
  • Following the fatal accident, a temporary line speed restriction was put in place in one direction which has an impact on journey times and efficiency of the railway. However, this is not intended to become a permanent solution.
  • We are seeking to meet demand for improved journey times on the line between London and Norwich, and the presence of level crossings limits the upgrades that can be achieved on this corridor. Reduced journey times would also have a tangible economic benefit to local residents in the Anglia region.

A feasibility study has been undertaken to explore potential options and develop these with input from key stakeholders and local residents.  A range of options have been considered as an alternative to the crossing, including a ramped underpass and a ramped footbridge, along with other options such as diversion routes.  A public consultation was held in November 2015 and a preferred option was selected for further investigation and development based on feedback from the local community.

Following the consultation, Network Rail has undertaken a further study to explore options for the closure of the public footpath level crossing at Gipsy Lane and nearby Footpath 6 (FP6), Needham Market, seeking an alternative means to cross the railway. This forms part of our ongoing commitment to deliver a safer, more efficient and reliable railway. Network Rail has already taken steps to close a number of level crossings across the network and improve public awareness of their potential dangers.

Network Rail is seeking to close level crossings across the network to improve safety and reliability, by working collaboratively with local authorities.

Gipsy Lane level crossing has a higher than average safety risk score due to high frequency of use by trains and pedestrians which indicates a higher chance of conflict, and therefore the crossing is afforded a higher priority for closure on safety grounds. By removing level crossings Network Rail can seek to improve safety and the local economy by delivering better connectivity.

A range of options have been considered for the crossing, including an underpass with ramp and a footbridge with ramp, along with options such as diversion routes.

The initial options, which were the subject of a public consultation in November 2015, were developed with input from a Design Panel of local key stakeholders and representatives, including Suffolk County Council, Mid Suffolk District Council, Needham Market Town Council, Creeting St Mary Parish Council, Local Disability Groups, Built Environment Accessibility Panel (BEAP), Network Rail, WSP Parsons Brinckerhoff and local residents..

The options  proposed in November 2015 are summarised below.  You can view the options by clicking the links below:

  • Option A – Ramped footbridge to the north of Gipsy Lane parallel with the railway with access taken from Gipsy Lane.  This has a 1 in 20 ramp gradient.
  • Option B – Ramped and Stepped footbridge to the north of Gipsy Lane with access from Stowmarket Road.  This has a 1 in 20 ramp gradient.
  • Option C – Underpass to the south of Gipsy Lane with 1 in 20 ramp gradient.  This option takes access via Gipsy Lane.
  • Option D – Underpass to the north of Gipsy Lane with 1 in 20 ramp gradient.  This option takes access via Gipsy Lane.
  • Option E – Diversion to the dry channel of an existing culvert underpass to the north of Gipsy Lane.  This option takes access via Stowmarket Road.
  • Option F – Diversion of users to existing routes to the south of Gipsy Lane.
  • Option G – Diversion of users to an existing private vehicle access bridge to the north of Gipsy Lane with access via Stowmarket Road.

The results of the 2015 public consultation indicated that there was overwhelming support for Option E – diversion of level crossing users to a dry channel of an existing culvert underpass approximately 230m to the north of Gipsy Lane.  This involves the creation of new footpaths through private land on both sides of the railway and linking with Stowmarket Road.

In order to create a route which is dry for the majority of the year and minimise the length of diversion, a raised concrete floor would be installed in the south arch of the culvert and the River Bat diverted to the north channel.

Since the previous round of public consultation, flow monitoring of the River Bat which flows through the culvert has been undertaken and a flood model of the channel catchment has been developed, including extended topographical surveys and cross correlation with rainfall data measured at a local gauge within the catchment.  The results of the modelling indicate that the optimum solution which balances flood risk with user accessibility would be achieved with a raised floor installed, allowing 2m headroom.  The design is currently progressing in preparation for a planning application in 2017.

Potential Scheme Benefits

The key benefits of the preferred option E solution are:

  • The scheme provides the opportunity to extend the local Public Right of Way network around Needham Market.
  • Users can be segregated from trains providing a safe walking route across the railway.
  • A new recreational walking route will be created alongside the River Gipping and River Bat.
  • The solution has minimal visual impact within the surrounding landscape.
  • Disruption to local residents can be minimised during construction.
  • Deep excavations close to residential properties are not required.
  • The scheme makes use of an existing structure.
  • Owing to the scale of works required, the proposed solution can be installed quickly and efficiently.
  • It is a lower cost solution enabling sustainable access across the railway.
  • The solution enables closure of two level crossings on a busy route.

The timeline below shows the process we will undertake.

Autumn 2015 – Public consultation

Winter 2015 – Analysis of consultation feedback

Autumn 2016 – Develop and appraise preferred option

Mid-2017 – Planning process

September 2019 – decision to close crossing approved

Works to close crossing – to be confirmed

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