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Sunday, 7 July 2013

Safer Marion Station July 6 - introduction

The following speech was the introduction to a public meeting for residents of Marion to be heard on a proposal by DPT&I to remove an at level crossing and overpass and replace it with an underpass as the sole means of pedestrian crossing at Marion Station.

If you couldn't make the meeting, here is the text of the opening address, by local resident Paul Gardner-Stephen.

My wife and I previously lived next to Ascot Park station, which has only an underpass, which is the same situation as is currently proposed for Marion Station, to try to keep people and trains apart.

In the 1990s a young man was in the habit of avoiding the underpass at Ascot Park Station. Whether this was due to the extra distance or the smell and generally revolting state of the underpass we will never know, because one day he was tragically killed when he failed to look for trains before jumping off the platform onto the tracks.  Therefore, removing the level crossing at Marion Station and providing only an underpass may in fact create the kind of danger that it is purported to avoid.

Here at Marion, a young man was tragically killed in 1967 when riding his bicycle across the tracks. This appears to be the major motivation for removing the current  level crossing from the Marion Station now, so that it cannot happen again.  However, the proposed removal of the current level crossing is not supported by the circumstances of that tragic event.

The Southern level crossing at that time was basically a paved road between Farne Terrace and Minchinbury Terrace, with no boom gates, lights, bells or pedestrian barriers - just a couple of bollards on each side so that cars could not fit through to cross the tracks. It was known to be dangerously sub-standard at the time. It was that design that allowed the boy to ride across the path of the oncoming train, without being forced to slow or stop.

The Southern level crossing of 1967 was not a mazed crossing, let alone the modern gated crossing such as have been recently installed at Oaklands Park and Hove Stations.  

During the 1970s all level crossings, from Brighton to Woodlands, were removed from local stations and replaced with underpasses - much as is being proposed for Marion today.  

With the exception of Ascot Park, where the rail bridge does not allow it, all have had level crossings reinstated. In some cases the underpass was demolished because the community was not willing to be forced to use unclean, poorly maintained underpasses that attract crimes against the person, especially the young, the elderly and the vulnerable.

Further, this area has many older people for whom the many stairs or long slopes of an underpass are not realistic for them to use, presenting a possible disability discrimination issue if no level crossing is provided.  This is compounded by the likelihood that people will ride bicycles and other vehicles through the spacious design of the underpass, posing a further safety risk to themselves and pedestrians alike.

This is because forcing people to use an underpass shifts the responsibility of safety from the individual, to a dependence on others to abstain from endangering them.  History shows that people are not willing to have the control of their personal safety taken away like this, especially following assaults.

Therefore, we see it as inevitable that even if the underpass is installed, a level crossing will be constructed either immediately or at some point in the not too distant future, especially given the disability access problems posed if long access ramps are the only option for accessing the station platform. 

Since the underpass is proposed for the northern end of the station, any new level crossing would almost certainly be built at the southern end nearest Westminster School. It would be foolish to assume that the majority of students would not use the level crossing and instead walk the extra 180m to get to the underpass, which we fear will by then be as under maintained and unpleasant as the underpasses at nearby stations.

Thus, any claimed safety benefits of the underpass will be moot, and the opportunity to obtain the safest possible level crossing by investing in complementary safety measures will have been lost, as the electrification budget will have long been spent.

All this will make the loss of the significant trees that must be felled to make way for the underpass all the more bitter - especially since some of the trees were planted by some of the same residents who would no longer be able to access the station.
Therefore we need to consider alternatives to the underpass that take local history and circumstances into account.  We believe that such alternatives exist, that are safer, cheaper, faster to build and more appropriate for the Marion community and environment.  We have proposed one such alternative to demonstrate this, which we have given to the DPTI, and which we would be pleased to show you all. 

We ask the DPTI to engage in genuine public consultation, to give the community real choice, and to ensure that as a result the community and residents around Marion Station receive the best possible outcome for the least possible drain on the public purse. We encourage you all to join us in this call.

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