The Level Crossing at Yarnton

by David Brown
for Yarnton Parish Council

T he first hint of the closure of the level crossing on the Yarnton Lane / Sandy Lane road that links Kidlington and Yarnton came when Cherwell District Council published its Partial Review plans to licence the building of houses on most of the open land between Kidlington and Oxford and in the fields around Yarnton and Begbroke as a part of Oxford's so-called un-met housing need.

This plan has been two years in discussion but despite the strong local opposition it has now been approved, and at the beginning of August Network Rail wrote to every house in Yarnton informing them of its plans to close the crossing to traffic and to provide a footbridge for pedestrians and cyclists. They invited comments, and in response to numerous responses they set up Public Drop-in events at Yarnton and Begbroke village halls for 14 & 15 September 2020; and then with the change in Government regulations these events were cancelled, and we are still waiting to hear what they now propose by way of consultation.

Network Rail's rationale for the closure is on the grounds of safety preventing incidents that occur at level crossings; and to improve the rail speeds to Birmingham. Yarnton Parish Council of course takes very seriously safety concerns, but on reviewing the numbers provided by Network Rail via a Freedom of Interest request it disputes the basis for Network Rail's claims. Furthermore, the Parish Council argues that if the level-crossing is removed it should be replaced with a road bridge that can accommodate vehicles to the same specification as the bridge that crosses the canal.

Meanwhile we have some facts: the crossing is not a peak-hour rat run as claimed by the Councils' submission to the Planning Inspector; it is used all day long as we know from our counting of cars and vans. Figures from our counting in the autumn of 2019 show that there are close to 2500 vehicles using the crossing during weekdays and nearly 2000 at weekends.

If the crossing was closed to vehicles and cars and vans had to drive round another way, they would have to do an extra 1.8 miles if they went via Langford Lane or an extra 2.1 miles if they went via Frieze Way. Extra miles, extra cost, extra time, extra carbon emissions — the figures are horrific. Taking an average of 2250 vehicles a day doing an average extra 1.95 miles amounts to an extra 4387.5 miles per day; and if you were working for the County Council or the District Council they would refund that at 45p per mile; that's £1974 per day, or a staggering £720,646 per year extra cost to the motorist! Do your own sums; how much will it be costing you?

Following Network Rail's cancellation of the Drop-in sessions at Yarnton and Begbroke, the Yarnton Parish Council wrote to Network Rail expressing some of the views of local residents; and Network Rail has answered the letter, if not the comments. These letters are now posted on the Yarnton Parish Council website (see link below).

The strong and continued opposition to the proposed closure is now demonstrated by the large numbers signing the Yarnton Parish Council petition to Network Rail. This petition is available online through the website Change.Org (see link below).

We need this crossing, or a replacement car-bearing bridge as it is a vital link to keep our communities connected. Now is the time to say so. Now is the time to sign the petition. Please see the link to the petition below.

David Brown is a Councillor of Yarnton Parish Council (YPC). You can visit the YPC website: here. If you would like to read or sign the online petition supported by Yarnton Parish Council to oppose the closure of the level crossing you can find the petition here.

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