ePetition details

Save Our Crossing! Keep Cottonmill Railway Crossing open for public use

We the undersigned petition the County Council to Work with local residents to stop the much used Cottonmill Railway crossing from being closed and instead require Network Rail to put in place all possible and appropriate safety measures and procedures including flashing lights and self-locking gates and ensure that train drivers use their horns as promised. Help to ensure that Network Rail explore all possible safety procedures in order to fulfil their own obligations. This route predates the construction of the railway and continues to be a vital link for local residents to access schools, shops and businesses. It is also part of the heavily promoted the Green Ring route around the centre of St Albans, used by thousands of cyclists and walkers each week. This Public Right of Way MUST be maintained whilst being kept safe for all users.


At least 1000 people are using this crossing on average every day. If Network Rail succeeded in closing this crossing, there are major negative impacts as follows:-

1) It will cut the Sopwell community in two.

2) It will force pedestrians and other users to use alternative unsafe routes in order to reach their destinations (e.g. Cottonmill Lane/ Prospect Road).

Many residents avoid Cottonmill Lane because it is a fast road and at various points has limited pedestrian side walks.

3) It will add 30-40 minutes walking time for those accessing many local schools and shops (on potentially unsafe roads – see point 2 above)

4) This will inevitably put more cars on the road in an already congested city.

5) Those who don't drive and who are not able to do long walks will lose this vital link and be severely disadvantaged as a result. Sopwell is already identified as the St Albans ward with the highest number of non-car owning households.

6) The elderly and parents with young children are hugely reliant on this route to get to the local shops and will be massively disadvantaged by the closure of this crossing.

7) School children are reliant on using this crossing to safely get to and from school every day.
Many cycle to school and would have no choice but to cycle on main roads such as Cottonmill which are far less suitable and unsafe (see Point 2).


This ePetition ran from 06/08/2018 to 31/10/2018 and has now finished.

1508 people signed this ePetition.

Council response

This petition was presented to Full County Council on 27 November 2018; the report relating to this item of business and the minutes can be viewed at:

Following this meeting the Executive Member for Highways and the Environment wrote to the Chief Executive of Network Rail setting out the council’s views on this matter and highlighting the motion agreed at full council that received cross party support. The excerpt below from Network Rail’s subsequent response details further actions they will take, and Hertfordshire County Council stands ready to work with Network Rail to further improve safety at the site but also to ensure this very important and well used footpath remains open.

“Network Rail has raised significant concerns to Hertfordshire County Council about both the volume and nature of deliberate misuse and accidental user error at Cottonmill Lane level crossing. We have developed options to close the crossing, thereby protecting users of the public footpath from all safety risks associated with the railway. These options have been shared with the Council.
Network Rail accepts that closure of the crossing (and diversion of the public right of way under the Highways Act 1980) is a matter for which Hertfordshire County Council holds authority. It is clear that Sopwell Residents Association and Hertfordshire County Council overwhelmingly oppose Network Rail's plans. Indeed, we note the Council's view that "based on current evidence, closing this heavily used crossing is wholly disproportionate". In this context, Network Rail acknowledges that consent will not be granted for closure of the level crossing under the 1980 Act regardless of the existing safety case.
Public safety at the crossing remains Network Rail's primary concern. However, in recognition of public opinion, Network Rail will halt plans to close the crossing indefinitely and will instead prioritise the enhancement of the level crossing to reduce risk to the public as low as reasonably practicable. Network Rail will now:
• Straighten the crossing to remove the skewed approach;
• Install new fencing to turn users in each direction before crossing;
• Renew the crossing surface to reduce the risk of pushchairs/wheelchairs becoming stuck;
• Emphasise the danger zone with a bright yellow crossing surface;
• Draw attention to the crossing "decision point" with white fence posts and ground markings;
• Improve the gates so that they self-close properly whilst remaining appropriately weighted;
• Retain the 20mph speed restriction to the railway over the crossing;
• Deliver a targeted safety campaign with, and for, the local community;
• Undertake further census and safety monitoring of the crossing following introduction of the enhancements.
Given the constraints posed by local infrastructure, Network Rail does not have at its disposal an "off the shelf solution for warning lights at Cottonmill Lane level crossing. The existing railway signalling arrangements, and the crossing's close proximity to St. Albans Abbey Station inhibit this. Furthermore, warning lights will not address concerns about members of the public taking chances by crossing in front of a train which they can already see. However, we agree to explore designs for such a system, and will further review this with Hertfordshire County Council in due course.
Since the public meeting that Network Rail hosted in September. we have responded to more than 200 separate enquiries about Cottonmill Lane level crossing, many of which answer questions from the community about possible safety enhancements. We want to ensure that anyone with a question about our work at the crossing can contact us directly through the cottonmilllane@networkrail.co.uk email account. Please feel free to forward this email address, together with details of our website (http://www.networkrail.co.uk/cottonmill), to all interested parties.

I t