Nick Sandham at the Newark Castle station crossing
Nick Sandham at the Newark Castle station crossing

A dedicated railway repair team has been installed in the Newark area after Network Rail admitted people were being affected too often by crossing failures.

Barriers have become stuck on at least six occasions at the Newark, Staythorpe and Rolleston crossings over the past ten months.

Issues have escalated since Network Rail switched in October last year from old-style mechanical signals to what were described as state-of-the art digital models, a process it has been undertaking across the country.

It was part of a £48m investment into the railway in east Nottinghamshire.

Mr Nick Sandham, head of communications for Network Rail in the East Midlands, said: “Last week, there were two failures at level crossings in the area and we appreciate how this has a severe impact on the people of Newark.

“Residents in Newark are being impacted by these failures too often.

“The area I’m responsible for covers King’s Cross to Berwick and this is the line causing us the most concern.

“But we are more concerned about the impact on people.

“Our priority is to fix it and work is taking place now.

“The Grantham to Nottingham line (was) done in exactly the same way, but with very few problems.

“To call it bad luck would be to almost treat it as a trivial occurrence.

“Someone has been based permanently in the area since last Thursday — we now have a dedicated team that gives us full shift cover in Newark.”

'Taken to the highest levels in Network Rail'

Among the first problems tackled by the new team was a level crossing fault at Rolleston, where the barriers were stuck in the up position.

The problem was first reported at 1.50pm on Friday and fixed by 2.45pm.

Mr Sandham said motorists were experiencing longer delays than normal at the crossings, even when there was no fault.

“We have not switched them to normal working because of the faults on the line. Safeguards are in place,” he said.

“We have seen that even normal operation of the Newark Castle crossing causes queues back to the A46.

“We can only apologise for that and reassure people we are doing things as quickly as we can.

“This has been taken to the highest levels in Network Rail.”

Network Rail said it was switching to the digital model as capacity was expected to double over the next two decades.

'An appalling failure'

Mr Roger Blaney, leader of Newark and Sherwood District Council, previously called for the crossings to be manually operated until a permanent solution could be found.

“I am pleased there is a mobile operations manager based in Newark,” he said.

“But the question I have posed to Network Rail is what sort of detailed analysis have they done on the differences between work on the Nottingham to Grantham line, and the line to Newark.

“We need to understand where the points of difference are.

“It has taken far longer than it would ordinarily to bring Network Rail to the table to recognise the inconvenience and loss of confidence these problems are causing.

“But I am encouraged that communications are sharper than they have been before.”

The MP for Newark, Mr Robert Jenrick, said: “This has been an appalling failure by Network Rail.

“This mess needs to be resolved as soon as possible and then lessons learnt.”

Mr Jenrick has asked the rail minister, Mr Paul Maynard, and the Office for Rail and Road (ORR) for a full investigation.

Representatives from the ORR and Network Rail were due to meet this week.