'CHILDREN AT RISK' FROM FAULTY RAILWAY CROSSING
January 19, 2005
By Steven Hughes
A PUBLIC footpath which passes over railway lines in Wokingham is unsafe, according to a local rail enthusiast.
Rex Hora, who regularly walks in Wokingham when visiting friends, said the footpath — which crosses the railway line behind Wokingham Cricket Club in Wellington Road — does not have the correct safety barriers to protect pedestrians from electrocution.
The Reading to Waterloo line has a live current running through it and should have eight wooden conductor rail guards fixed to either side of the four live sections that run close to crossing point.
Although there is a cattle-grid deterring pedestrians from walking on the track, there are just two rotten guards remaining where the line begins, says Mr Hora.
Mr Hora wrote to Network Rail, the company responsible for maintaining tracks across the country, on November 29, saying a child playing near the track could fall on to the live line.
He received a reply 12 days later saying the line is checked on a weekly basis, and that contractors would make a special effort to repair any damage to the Wokingham section.
But after walking on the path last Wednesday, Mr Hora said the guards had not been repaired.
He said: “I was just walking along when I noticed most of the conductor rail guards were missing.
“There should be eight guards, two on each side. Six of them are completely missing and the remaining two are dilapidated.
“These guards are really the last line of defence as people would have to get across the cattle grid first.
“But the main danger is to children who may play near the line.
“If they did fall on the line at least these beams could stop them touching the live rail.
“The fault itself is relatively trivial. What worries me is that in the letter from Network Rail they said it’s inspected each week and they are still in the same state as they were in November.
“If we’re going to have the safety precautions at all they might as well be kept in good condition.”
A spokeswoman for Network Rail admitted the work had not yet been completed and apologised to pedestrians for the inconvenience.
She said: “We did receive Mr Hora’s complaint but there are two level crossings in Wokingham and we went to the wrong one.
“The crossing has not been repaired yet but it will be done by the end of next week.”
The spokeswoman stressed that although the conductor rail guards are not in place, the cattle-grids are the main source of protection.
She added: “The cattle-grids are all in place and that is adequate protection. Conductor rail guards make it ideal protection and that is what we want.
“We’d like to thank the member of the public for bringing this to our attention.”