Thursday, 16 January 2014

Postcard of the Day No. 62, The London Express Crossing the High Street

Much resented by motorists for whom conceding priority to slow and pointless trains is an insult to their pride, the level crossing is on the way to being extinct in Britain. An impatient and individualistic population is increasingly inclined to accept a high degree of risk to life in order to avoid delay and the frequency of accidents at level crossings has soared in recent decades. In the interests of safety Network Rail plans to eliminate as many as possible with all due speed and replace them with bridges, underpasses or diversions. Since 2009 some 700 have been closed leaving more than 6,500 of which another 500 are scheduled for closure. This example in Poole is a genuine curiosity, the only place where a main line crosses a pedestrianised main shopping street ensuring a constant flow. Despite the provision of a footbridge there have been many instances of locals vaulting, dodging or attempting to outrun the barriers as they descend. In response Network Rail installed additional safety features in 2013, including a vault-proof barrier – it remains to be seen whether the youth of Poole will rise to the challenge. The Poole crossing is one of very few to have been the subject of a painting – the former Camden Town Group artist, Henry Lamb captured the scene in a painting of 1953, now in the collection of the National Rail Museum in York. 

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