Safety fears voiced over Wem level crossing upgrade

A level crossing, named by Network Rail as one of the worst in the country for people ignoring red lights, is to close at night while it becomes automated.

The work at Wem in Shropshire is part of a £22m project to upgrade to the line between Shrewsbury and Crewe.

Network Rail said it will be closed overnight on various days, starting on Saturday, until 14 October when the new system will be monitored from Cardiff.

Councillors have expressed concerns over the safety of the new crossing.

'Extensive' testing

They are concerned the automated system could lead to accidents and the loss of the manned signal box, which is "part of Wem's heritage".

Shropshire Councillor Pauline Dee said the crossing was the "sixth most dangerous in the country".

"People feel more reassured if there's a signalman there, when you've got a man there who is able to come down and wind down the system if there is a problem.

"How long is it going to take for a technician to come from Shrewsbury, or from Chester?"

Network Rail said the work would improve efficiency, lower costs in the long term, and include the installation of CCTV.

It said it will be closing the crossing for testing on 5 October from 22:00 BST until 07:00 on 7 October. It will also be closed overnight on 7, 8 and 9 October.

Commissioning work will be carried out from 11-14 October.

A Network Rail spokesperson said they "would not introduce a system which was less safe than the one it is replacing and the new level crossing is as safe as a human-supervised crossing".

He added: "It is tested and used extensively on level crossings on European railways and the new systems have built in fail safe mechanisms, which alert the signaller if there is anything preventing normal working."

Once the project is complete, there will be new automated level crossings, replacing the manned crossings, at Wem, Prees, Harlescott, Wrenbury, Nantwich, Newcastle Road and Shrewbridge.

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