Aug 31 2007 By Marjorie Kerr, West Lothian Courier
PLANS are being developed to signal the end of an accident blackspot in West Lothian.
A partnership, involving Network Rail, Scottish Executive, the South East of Scotland Transport Partnership (SEStran) and West Lothian Council, is behind a new £6 million move to build an underpass to replace the level crossing at Kirknewton.
The announcement came as rail bosses revealed that the crossing is one of the most abused in Scotland, and called for drivers to heed their `Don’t Run the Risk’ awareness campaign.
Network Rail has made Kirknewton one of the main focusses for its drive to cut casualties due to the high number of motorists who ignore flashing warning lights which show when a train is coming.
However, the campaign also targets pedestrians, cyclists and other road users to remind them of the dangers of jumping the lights at level crossings.
Kirknewton level crossing has consistently featured in the top five of the most frequently abused crossings in Scotland.
As part of the campaign, Ron McAulay, Network Rail’s director Scotland, met with the area’s MSP, Angela Constance, to discuss Kirknewton level crossing.
And the MSP said she welcomed the new underpass plans adding: “This is a very good idea and there has been a lot of progress made on the project.
“A lot of partnership work has been done so far and £5 million of funding has been identified already, but we need the Scottish Government to commit to the outstanding amount.”
The MSP stressed the scheme must be fully discussed with local people to ensure they are behind the plans before any work begins at the busy level crossing.
Over 3000 vehicles cross the level crossing each day, and around 150 trains travel along the line daily —, some travelling at speeds of up to 90mph.
Network Rail say these issues, along with any concerns raised by the local community, must be addressed before a timescale is put in place for the work to begin.
A spokesman said: “These plans take quite a long time to get through, but we are keen to show we are making an effort to address the issue.
“We aim to get this up and running as quickly as possible.”
West Lothian Council’s executive councillor for development and transport, Martyn Day, said he was pleased a solution is now on the cards for the crossing.
He said: “This is really good news for the local community.
“We have been working hard to find an alternative to the existing level crossing at Kirknewton. There have been fatal accidents and many near misses on this level crossing, which is rated as one of the most dangerous in Scotland.
“We are working together in partnership to replace the level crossing and provide a safe alternative for road and rail users. This is a sensible solution to a long-standing problem.”