'Everyone is angry': Horsham locals fed up with two level crossings as Network Rail apologises

Tap to watch a video report by ITV News Meridian's James Dunham

People in Horsham in West Sussex are fed up and frustrated after work to improve safety at two level crossings led to lengthy waiting times and long delays.

Whilst filming two drivers told me the new modernised system is a pain in the **** (we’ll go with ‘backside’ as the polite alternative).

Some say they've ended up sitting in traffic for 20 minutes.

“It’s not an upgrade…it’s a downgrade”, says Dr Niyati Prasad, a local resident who says getting out of her home is becoming increasingly difficult with traffic backed up for longer periods of time.

  • Ali Hollingworth started a petition calling for action

For Network Rail the complaints started not long after an £8 million safety investment in August at crossings on Parsonage Road and Rusper Road, next to Littlehaven station.

The huge amount of money saw full length barriers and new CCTV technology installed to replace an outdated and unsafe 1970s half barrier system.

Describing the crossing points as two of the most high risk in the country, Network Rail say drivers would often swerving through the barriers and ignore the warning signs causing significant risk to people on the road and trains.

The new operation is now monitored 24/7 by signallers in a control room at Three Bridges meaning someone is observing the crossing to check it's clear before the barriers are brought up and down.

  • Katie Frost, Network Rail Sussex Route Director, says work is taking place to reduce crossing times

Workers are having to adjust to the new crossing and timetable which at certain points can see three trains pass in quick succession, leaving little time for signallers to bring the barriers up, even if there is a few minutes gap.

This manual procedure is 18 times safer according to Network Rail but residents say waiting times have exceeded the five minute maximum period they were previously used to.

“If I see the barriers come down, I won't come down here. I turn around to go somewhere else", says Ali Hollingworth who started a petition calling for action.

“Everyone's angry, really angry because it's having so much effect on the community in town. At the end, you've got a roundabout, it all backs up. People can't get through.

The new full length level crossing was installed back in August Credit: ITV Meridian

“You've got a massive industrial estate where they store big light white lorries. And obviously they can't get out because of the back up of traffic.

“It is a nightmare, obviously sending more emissions into the atmosphere, I know someone that saw an ambulance waiting here for 15 minutes. That could be someone’s life.

I asked Ali what she would say to Network Rail and her response…

"Please get this system sorted out. We just want a normal life again."

An example of a half barrier level crossing which have now been replaced at Parsonage Road and Rusper Road in Horsham Credit: Network Rail

The organisations says it’s looking at adjusting the timetable in an effort to reduce long periods where the barriers are down.

Katie Frost, who is Sussex Route Director, is apologetic and explains that Network Rail never set out to cause problems for people when it carried out its programme of works.

"I'm so sorry. I know how frustrating it is for motorists and pedestrians to be stuck with the barriers down at the crossings. That really wasn't our intention when we completed the upgrade works.

"For context, the crossing at Parsonage Road was over 50 years old and it become one of the highest risk in the country. We regularly saw users swerving around the barriers when they were down. And we know how dangerous that is.

"Since the upgrade our signallers have been working really hard to reduce the barrier down time as far as possible.

"In the beginning, it was put as many as 10 minutes. And we know in most cases we've been able to halve that, but it still isn't good enough.

"And that's why now we're looking at what we can do to change the times the trains pass through the crossing so we can reduce the time even further.

"This is not something that we are saying will be far off in the next year. We are looking to make these changes as swiftly as possible."

In March 2023, further work will take place at Littlehaven station to extend the platform so trains don’t overhang the crossing.

This, Network Rail say, should cut crossing times even further as the barriers won’t have to be down as frequently.