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Ramblers in Gravesend and Higham fight to save rail crossing

PUBLISHED: 12:40 04 November 2010

Robin Theobald , Dickens society chairman and parish councillor Lianne Hornby

Robin Theobald , Dickens society chairman and parish councillor Lianne Hornby

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Campaigners have vowed to oppose the closure of a narrow railway crossing which is a vital walking link across marshes.

The crossing about halfway between Gravesend and Lower Higham once had wooden kissing gates on both sides while it was used by ramblers for decades without concern,

Network South East Rail closed it about a year ago, claiming the crossing was dangerous because more trains are using the line.

Shorne parish councillor and chairman of the Dickens Society, Robin Theobald, wants the foot crossing from Lower Shorne through Queen’s Farm Road to Shorne Marshes to be reopened after increasing complaints from walkers.

He said: “The problem goes back about 40 years when the footpath was mistakenly left off the definitive public rights-of-way map.

“What was then British Rail did, in fact, acknowledge that there was a right-of-way on foot. But when the map was drawn up it was not shown – it was an omission.

He added: “It has been quite arbitrarily closed off and we have started to receive complaints from people who could not use it as they have done. People have been using it regularly.

“We have started collecting evidence from people who have complained and we will go through the legal process to revise the definitive map and have the crossing reopened. But it could take some time.”

Mr Theobald said Shorne Marshes had been effectively “cut in half” by the closure.

Shorne parish council clerk Leanne Hornby believes walkers should be allowed access.

She said: “If they want to close the crossing then they can put a bridge across that caters for walkers and cyclists, a not unreasonable proposition.”

RSPB Kent communications officer Rolf Williams said: “We recommend the reserves at Shorne and Higham Marshes are best accessed via the Sustrans or Saxon Shoreway – public rights-of-way – from Gravesend, Cliffe Pools or Canal Road, where there is appropriate car parking.”

A Network Rail spokesperson said: “The level crossing at Shornemead is a private level crossing. There has never been any public footpath or public right-of-way to cross the railway at this point.

“In recent years there have been numerous reports of the level crossing being misused by the public, and in some cases people narrowly avoiding being struck by a train.

“Therefore, in agreement with the occupants for whom the level crossing provides access to their properties, the pedestrian gates were closed permanently. We have placed signage at the crossing advising where the nearest public crossing is located.”

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