On behalf of residents, York Conservatives have repeatedly spoken up about changes to Copmanthorpe's Level Crossing and implored Network Rail to listen to local communities.
As part of the multimillion pound upgrades to the Transpennine route, trains will now travel at greater speeds resulting in quicker journey times for passengers. For this reason, Network Rail has deemed the level crossing at Copmanthorpe unsafe and not fit for the future. Their proposed solution includes relocating the crossing and installing a stepped footbridge.
This week, York Outer Member of Parliament, Julian Sturdy, spoke at an inquiry to put local residents' views on record. He stressed how not only would a stepped footbridge exclude wheelchair users from using the crossing and make crossing more difficult for families with pushchairs, it would also hamper ambitions for an active travel route between Bishopthorpe and Copmanthorpe.
Local councillor Chris Steward has also been lobbying Network Rail to act in the best interests of Copmanthorpe. He has been working with City of York Council to ensure the views of the village were included in their submission to the inquiry and has met with Network Rail.
The inquiry concludes this week and has heard representations from Copmanthorpe Parish Council, City of York Council and York Disability Forum among others. Outside the inquiry, Julian has met the Minister of Rail, Huw Merriman MP, to raise concerns about Network Rail excluding residents with their choice of railway infrastructure and not using their budgets to make long term decisions.
Speaking after appearing at the inquiry, Julian said:
“It was important for me to appear at the inquiry on behalf of my constituents to show Network Rail the strength of feeling among the community.
Not only are the current proposals exclusionary but also incredibly short sighted. It is inevitable when an active travel route is commissioned between Bishopthorpe and Copmanthorpe that the bridge will be upgraded to a ramped bridge to allow for easier access for cyclists. Rather than save now and spend more later, Network Rail should install the necessary infrastructure first time.
I await the outcome of the inquiry and will continue to work with stakeholders in the community to ensure the views of the villages are heard.”
Cllr Chris Steward added:
"I very much hope Network Rail will not be allowed to divert the footpath without a full alternative crossing - that being ramped access over a bridge or through an underpass. To not do so would significantly disadvantage residents including those in wheelchairs and with pushchairs.
We must always be seeking to make facilities more accessible and never less accessible. Network Rail seem to think there should be lots of potential journeys made by disadvantaged groups to justify a ramped bridge, this is a position totally at odds with equalities legislation. With new housing being built near the likely bridge location I believe if ramps are not built not then they will be in the future and it is absurdly inefficient to effect build it in two stages."