As part of a national programme of level crossing improvements, the railway crossing at Whisby Nature Park has been closed. It will be replaced with a new bridge for pedestrians and nature reserve vehicles. It will meet in full the Equalities Act 2010 specifications.
The new footbridge was opened on Friday 20 March 2015.
A New Bridge
There will always be a high level of risk to people where a footpath crosses a railway line and the current footpath has been accordingly rated as a high risk crossing. Network Rail is therefore mandated to have plans that improve the safety of such crossings and has secured the finance for a new bridge. Following this Network Rail has worked closely with the partners of the Nature Park: Lincolnshire Wildlife Trust, Lincolnshire County Council, and North Kesteven District Council in coming up with an appropriate design for pedestrians and the reserve vehicles.
Why is the level crossing being closed?
The footbridge has been in place since 1988 when the park opened, but has now reached the point of being declared unsafe and beyond economic repair by Lincolnshire County Council. So with potentially 100,000 visitors crossing this railway line a year, including young children, people with disabilities, large groups as well as the nature reserve vehicles, the railway crossing in the Nature Park is classed as a high risk crossing.
National safety programme
Since 2010 Network Rail have invested £131m in a national level crossings improvement programme, which includes new barrier technology and bridges installed to replace crossings.
Network Rail have pledged to close a further 500 crossings in the next five years, investing more than £100m over this period as part of an ongoing programme to improve safety and reduce risk to passengers and the wider public.
Access to the new bridge on the south side of the railway has been designed to protect the valuable oak wood and scrub by using the old gravel pit ramp. The habitat here is important for Whisby’s nightingales, a regionally important population and the only one of any size in Lincolnshire. It also helps to reduce the visual impact of the bridge by the screening of the existing trees. A new ramp will have to be built on the north side of the railway, which will be done by using spoil from the old viewpoint at the north end of the site. This ramp will be planted with gorse to replace the lost habitat.