Paignton railway level crossing closure angers traders

Level crossing at Paignton
Image caption Keeping part of the crossing open by stopping trains was "not an option", Network Rail said

Plans to close the level crossing in Paignton for two weeks have upset businesses in the town.

Network Rail is installing a new crossing, additional lights and upgrading signalling.

When the crossing closes at 22:00 GMT on Saturday, local traders in Torbay Road fear they will be "cut off" from the town.

Network Rail said the work was essential and it would be unsafe to keep the crossing open.

The level crossing is due to reopen on 13 February.

Matthew Dart, from Torbay Town Centres Company, said: "When the crossing goes down it will effectively cut Torbay Road off from the town."

He said the alternative foot bridge access for pedestrians was unsuitable for disabled people, anyone with restricted mobility and mothers with prams.

Network Rail's contractor, Amey Rail, has also been criticised by traders who were given less than 10 days notice about the closure.

Carol Palmer-Ley from Scoffs Fish and Chips received a letter from Amey about the closure on Thursday.

"It's health and safety, so there's nothing to be done, but to be told only two days before I think is pretty bad," she said.

Mr Dart said with more time, businesses could have attempted to persuade Network Rail to keep part of the crossing open and close Paignton train station.

Compensation claim

"We accept the work needs to be done, but there were alternative ways of managing the footfall," he said.

"In the past the line's been kept open, by stopping trains coming in to Paignton station and bussing passengers to Torquay."

But Network Rail, which owns the land, said the machinery needed to carry out the work meant leaving any part of the the crossing was not an option.

"Safety is always the number one priority and we won't take chances on any level in relation to public safety," spokesman Jon Crampton said.

"The work has been planned to minimise disruption as much as possible but we apologise for any inconvenience caused.

"Local residents and businesses have been contacted and short diversions will be in place for motorists, pedestrians and wheelchair users."

Some traders said they would consider claiming compensation if they experienced a loss of trade.

Mark Hamilton, from 100% Health, said: "This could be the final nail in the coffin for some retailers, I believe."

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