No trains between Dunster and Minehead until October due to crossing delays

Written by on June 9, 2021

THE Seaward Way Level Crossing in Minehead is unlikely to open until at least the middle of October.

MP for Bridgwater and West Somerset, Ian Liddell-Grainger, has criticised the delay saying the loss of trains will deal “a heavy blow” to the Minehead business community.

The level crossing upgrade plan began in 2018, and the design was complete by 2020.

It was finally approved by the Office of Rail and Road (the regulator) in February 2021.

Preparatory work has already taken place at the site, but despite this, trains between Minehead and Dunster will not run until after the summer.

A statement, released by West Somerset Railway (WSR) and Somerset County Council (SCC), said this ‘complex project’ involves a number of agencies and equipment suppliers, and it has been ‘hit hard’ by the Covid-19 pandemic.

“There have been supply chain issues for some key parts and most of the specialist rail contractors needed for this work are also currently required by Network Rail for vital works across the main UK network,” a spokesperson for both WSR and SCC said.

“We are keenly aware of the importance of this service to local businesses in Minehead which is why the WSR is providing this bus service.

“A great deal of preparatory work has already taken place, including a significant amount of work off site.

“Despite the difficulties, it is anticipated the crossing will be operational in time for the festive season.”

Mr Liddell-Grainger said the business community deserve to be told why the delays have happened.

“It has been known for a long time that the level crossing is no longer fit for purpose because of increased road traffic,” he added.

“But what I and the local business community wish to be told is why the delays have crept in.

“It is my understanding that the work was ready to start two years ago but then the company insisted on ‘heritage’ rather than electric signalling being installed.

“That would have added £80,000 to the total cost – an expense which the county council resisted.

“If that is the case then it is utterly farcical.

“The vast majority of people who use the trains don’t care in the least about the type of signals installed: they simply want to ride on the railway – and in most cases get to Minehead.”

In a recent newsletter, WSR said there is ‘no single answer’ as to why the upgrade is taking so long.

Although they were thinking about a heritage crossing in the design phase, they realised this was too expensive and so are creating a new level crossing.

Plus, the crossing itself has to be substantial in order to cope with the increase in pedestrian traffic, so they are needing to build double barriers across the whole road, rather than previous half barriers.

Other reasons for the delays include:

  • Stage one of the project involves many WSR volunteers – all of whom have been stuck at home for long periods due to the various Covid-19 lockdowns.
  • As well as this, obtaining various equipment has been a challenge due to the pandemic for both stages one and two.

WSR have also launched a £1million SOS funding appeal, after they did not receive a grant from the second round of the Culture Recovery Fund.

To donate visit west-somerset-railway.co.uk/donations.

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