Brandon signalling delays are the “nature of the new technology”, says rail boss

Motorists are facing delays at a Suffolk level crossing with some forced to wait up to 20 minutes after a train has passed before the barriers are raised.

Brandon’s signal box, built in 1931, was replaced this summer with a modernised version, controlled from a Cambridge power signal box.

But the upgrade has left cars waiting at the Bridge Street barriers long after trains have passed, leaving traffic queuing into the High Street.

Reported problems involve trains travelling in both directions, with barriers lowering long before trains pass on some occasions, and on others taking some time to lift again, or lifting and lowering in quick succession following a train passing through.

Terry Hawkins, of Seymour Avenue, Brandon, who runs a local information website, said he was forced to leave extra time when catching trains from Brandon in order to avoid the barriers being lowered.

“The other day I was stuck there and the traffic was through the town,” he said. “You never know how much time you’re going to need. I’ve been on the train about twice this week and the barriers have gone down a good five minutes before the train - a couple of people have been stuck there for some time.”

One man, writing on Mr Hawkins’ website, said he waited for 20 minutes, and was 20 cars back from the barriers, before an ambulance driver, closer to the barrier, was forced to use the phone provided and the barriers were lifted.

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A spokesman for Network Rail said there had been some problems with power supply to the signalling system in Brandon, but that in general barriers may stay down longer for safety reasons.

“One of the features of the new system is that the barriers tend to be down a bit longer but it’s not an exact science,” he said. “It’s the nature of the new technology and it’s for safety reasons.

“Some people might find at some locations their waiting a bit longer but the most important thing is to keep everyone safe.”

He added that a 20 minute wait would have meant there was a problem in the line which would have triggered a “fail safe” mechanism at the barriers causing them to stay down.