Cabinet to Consider Options for Crossing
South Tyneside Council's Cabinet is to be updated on feasibility studies around a 'road over rail' bridge in East Boldon and asked to advise on next steps.
The council had been investigating the viability of a bridge scheme in response to a decision by Network Rail to install full barriers at Tilesheds Lane and Boldon Lane level crossings because of safety concerns.
The existing half barriers are scheduled for complete renewal to improve safety, and to prevent people misusing them; however, full barriers take longer to operate, meaning barrier down-time would be increased significantly, leading to delays and congestion on the strategic road network.
Following detailed analysis of several potential options, it was concluded that a bridge was the only viable alternative.
A public engagement and communication process began in September last year and attracted 159 responses from residents. The council has also received a petition against the proposal, with 4068 signatures, around a third of which are from people local to South Tyneside.
Concerns were raised around the environmental impact of a bridge structure and perceived links to future housing sites, as well as the validity of Network Rail's claims on safety and timings of a full barrier system.
Cabinet will be recommended to pause any further feasibility and design work.
Cllr Mark Walsh, Lead Member for Housing and Transport, said: "The council commissioned a feasibility study into an alternative to the full barriers because we have a statutory duty to investigate and mitigate for potential congestion on the highway network, as well as taking steps to prevent and reduce accidents.
"Having considered the issues raised by early feasibility work and residents' comments, and in order to fully address all their concerns, we would have to carry out an Environmental Impact Assessment, which would involve proceeding with the detailed design process and further financial commitment.
"We would also need to carry out extensive traffic modelling and the long-term impact of Covid on future traffic levels is very unclear, so it is not currently possible to factor this into any new analysis.
"These are issues that will affect any future decision around the bridge option, and they can't be quantified or modelled at this point.
"With this in mind, it is prudent to pause all further feasibility work into the bridge option."
If approved, the decision will allow Network Rail to proceed with detailed design and programming works for the full barrier system from 2024 onwards.