Dorset

Staff shortages lead to Wareham rail crossing closure

mother pushing pram at Wareham crossing on 11.5.09 Image copyright Network Rail
Image caption The crossing was once branded one of the most dangerous in the country

Staff shortages at a railway level crossing in Dorset have left residents with no step-free access across a train line in the evenings.

A sign on the pedestrian crossing at Wareham warned safety gates would be closed every evening until 13 August.

Dorset Council, which has employed attendants at the crossing since 2010, said attempts to fill a vacant post had been unsuccessful.

It said the gates would be operated from 06:00 to 18:00.

The only other routes across the railway, which divides the town, are a footbridge with steps or a diversion of more than half a mile involving the A351 road bridge which has no footpath.

The council said the latest closures had been the result of one of two members of staff going on leave and a third vacant post which it had been unable to fill through its specialist rail sector recruiter, STM.

Image copyright North Wareham Action Group
Image caption Residents said the closure would affect shift workers

Road safety manager Mike Potter said: "Due to the qualification needed for this job there aren't many people available and recent attempts to recruit by STM have unfortunately been unsuccessful.

"It is regrettable that we are not able to keep the crossing fully open for this next week, however it is important that we ensure crossing operators are working sensible hours and providing a service that best ensures that safety of the people choosing to use the level crossing."

Residents said the closure would affect people getting home from work as well as shift workers getting to work and access to the town's Wareham Wednesdays summer season events.

The level crossing, once branded one of the most dangerous in the country, is due to be shut as part of a national programme of closures over safety concerns.

Revised plans to replace the stepped footbridge with a ramp were refused by councillors in June last year.

In January, the crossing was closed at short notice after a rail worker was suspended following a number of near misses.

Image copyright Google
Image caption The A351 bridge has no continuous footpath

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