New £4.5m bridge to replace Lindsells crossing dubbed 'ugly' by councillor
A planned bridge dubbed "ugly" by a local councillor will soon replace a notorious level crossing in Bedfordshire at a cost of more than £4.5m.
Network Rail intends to build a bridleway over the East Coast Mainline at Biggleswade and close Lindsells crossing on public safety grounds.
The new bridge will be 12.6m tall, 60.1m wide and span 113 metres, according to a report to Central Bedfordshire Council's development management committee.
There are about 310 trains daily on the East Coast Mainline, travelling up to 125mph from London to Peterborough and the north-east of England.
A new bridleway will be created on one side of the track to redirect a right of way because of the crossing's removal, said the report.
The committee approved an application from Network Rail Infrastructure Limited for a new ramped and stepped bridleway footbridge over the railway line, about 400m north of Lindsells crossing.
Planning officer Tom Mead said: "Of particular benefit, the structure would provide a safe means of passage over the East Coast Mainline accessible to all users of the relocated bridleway."
He explained that part of the application site is owned by Conservative Biggleswade North councillor Ian Bond, who addressed the committee and then left the meeting.
Councillor Bond described the crossing as "one of the most dangerous in the country", saying: "A successful housing infrastructure fund (HIF) bid for Biggleswade by CBC asked for Lindsells to be replaced by a new bridleway bridge.
"Nobody in their right mind would want such a large bridge. But the proposal before you is a quantum leap from the original application submitted in May.
"A proper scheme is required and Biggleswade residents deserve the best we can provide."
Biggleswade Town Council said it supports the strengthened landscaping plans, asking for attention to be paid to the irrigation and the use of mature trees.
Network Rail project manager Andrew Farnworth referred to Lindsells as "a high risk category because of the line speed at the crossing, the frequency of trains and its length".
He said: "Despite some mitigations, the crossing has a history of deliberate misuse and user error. Tragically there've been two fatalities there in the last ten years.
"Through CBC, Homes England is providing funding to build the new bridleway bridge and facilitate the closure of the crossing.
"The design is a steel structure similar to those at many other rural locations in the country.
"It's recognised it's a large structure, but that's the necessity of creating a bridge that safely passes over an electrified four-track railway.
"We think we'll be on site for six to eight months."
Independent Biggleswade South councillor Hayley Whitaker said: "There's a huge amount of local opposition to this development.
"That said, safety has got to be paramount. It's blooming ugly. It's just the ugliest thing. And the original plans for the screening with trees were pretty poor.
"My major concerns are the night time works which will have a huge impact. If we can condition noise barriers or quiet piling, that would go a long way towards mitigating the noise experienced by local residents."
There were eight objections from residents, two in favour of the plans and five general comments received.
The committee agreed an earlier application by Network Rail in November to close the bridleway at Lindsells level crossing and build a replacement bridge, while upgrading two Biggleswade footpaths to bridleways.