THE closure of a well-used pedestrian rail crossing in Cononley has been extended to over a year, because there’s a slim chance people using it might not hear the horn of one early-morning train per day, a resident has said.

In late 2020, the much-used pedestrian rail crossing and riverside footpath south east of Cononley were suddenly closed and fenced off by Network Rail. An emergency three-week closure ran up to December 24, when it was replaced by a six-month temporary closure due to end on June 3rd 2021. This has now been extended to December 3rd 2021, taking the closure to over a year.

It transpired the reason for the closure was because the horn signal on the Azuma 800 train, which is used on the Skipton to London Kings Cross service, was deemed inaudible from the crossing. This particular train only passes the Cononley crossing twice each day, both times early in the morning.

It comes out from the depot in Leeds to pick up passengers at Skipton for the 6-56 am Skipton-Kings Cross service, passing through Cononley on its way to Skipton and again shortly after on its way back to Leeds. But because people using the Cononley pedestrian crossing might not hear the horn on this one early morning train, the popular crossing was fenced off.

The alternative route for pedestrians involves walking up Crosshills Road into the village and turning right onto the footpath running past the cricket club. Although the distance to reach the railway station is about the same, this route has two fairly steep inclines, limited visibility, no pavements for most of it length and a history of problems with speeding traffic.

Local resident Emma Slater, who uses the route every work day, said: “The closure of the crossing and the footpath is inconvenient and, in my opinion, dangerous due to the nature of the alternative route. We’ve had many near-misses with traffic on this road and I’m quite scared to walk this way when the road is busy at peak times.

“We’ve been patient and waited for the six-month closure to be up, but now it seems this is now likely to go on into at least August and it’s simply not acceptable. The fact that the train which causes the issue is so infrequent makes it more difficult to understand.

“The crossing and path was previously used by hundreds of people every week, including locals accessing the Leeds/Bradford bound platform of the station, as well as dog walkers, tourists and ramblers walking the picturesque riverside.

“I feel we’re all being put in danger and inconvenienced to save the train operator money. They need to fix their inaudible horn, not just cut the vegetation back, as it seems this won’t even guarantee that the problem will be resolved.”

Olly Glover, Head of Safety, Health and Environment for Network Rail’s North and East Route, said: “The crossing was initially closed for safety reasons, relating to concerns about the adequacy of the sound made by some trains’ warning horns which use the line.

“Work was started to clear vegetation to improve visibility on the crossing but was paused because it ran into the bird nesting season. We hope to resume work as soon the nesting season is over later in the year and look to re-open the crossing upon completion of the vegetation clearance works.”