Charlton Champion exclusive: Network Rail has apologised after wrongly claiming that the Angerstein Wharf railway crossing, which it wants to close, was the most dangerous in its Kent region.
The Charlton Champion revealed in May that the state-owned track company has revived plans to close the footpath over the freight branch line, which links streets in Charlton with a footbridge to Westcombe Park station.
At the time, it claimed that the crossing over the single-track line was “currently registered as the most dangerous of nearly 350 level crossings which we operate in Kent”.
However, after The Charlton Champion asked for the data that its statement was based on, Network Rail has withdrawn the claim – admitting that it is actually the 34th most dangerous crossing in the region.
There are also seven more dangerous foot crossings in the Kent region, it admitted.
Network Rail said that it was, in fact, “the highest risk footpath in south-east London” – however, there are no other foot crossings like it in south-east London. The track company did not respond to a request for clarification.
“Angerstein Footpath Crossing is ranked 8th out of the 162 footpath crossings in Kent and 34th out of 341 crossings in Kent. It is the highest risk footpath in South East London, not in Kent – the statement was a miscommunication on our press release and we apologise for any confusion caused,” Network Rail said in response to a request made under freedom of information laws.
A Network Rail press release – which was not sent to us at the time – calls the path “the most dangerous level crossing in south east London”. However, there is only one other level crossing on a Network Rail line in south east London, a mile away at Charlton Lane.
“Charlton Lane is ranked 43rd out of 341 for level crossing risk in Kent; however Charlton Lane is a fully protected, full barrier manned crossing which is one of the highest levels of protection for a level crossing,” it said.
While Network Rail claimed there had been “many incidents where drivers of trains had to apply their emergency brakes to avoid people on the track”, only one such incident had been recorded – on 28 November 2019, when a driver reported someone crossing as the train approached. Almost a year earlier, a driver told control room staff that someone had crossed after being told not to, but there was no report of brakes being applied.
In total, thirteen incidents were recorded, including seven trespass incidents with people seen on the line; one woman apparently carrying a baby in her arms and trying to access Westcombe Park station, another where youths were seen throwing rocks at cars on Bugbsy’s Way.
Others had little to do with its use as a crossing: a track worker was cut by a syringe inserted into a handrail in March 2019, the following month vandalism to a fence was reported, while in February 2020 it was reported that a recently-installed safety gate had come off its hinge.
The final incident was a “concern for welfare” when a driver saw “two teenage boys hanging around the foot crossing” – one which may raise eyebrows for any residents who grew up in the area and may have done the same themselves.
Network Rail did not respond to a request for further comment.
The crossing, originally built for farm workers in the 1850s, has grown in importance in recent years with the development of new housing on the old Thorn Lighting site between Victoria Way and Fairthorn Road. The newer Bowen Drive development off Victoria Way, which welcomed its first residents last year, offers a direct link to Gurdon Road and the crossing.
Two weeks ago Greenwich & Woolwich MP Matt Pennycook asked Network Rail for detailed evidence to back up its assertions that the footpath, which is one of just a handful of crossings, is unsafe.
The letter came after the track company held a consultation meeting with local residents, which Pennycook said had been followed by “uniformly negative feedback”.
In February 2018, Network Rail closed a footpath across the railway at Stone Crossing, east of Dartford and replaced it with a new footbridge. However, at the Angerstein crossing, it is expecting the 675 daily passengers to reroute via Woolwich Road to reach Westcombe Park.
PLEASE SUPPORT THE CHARLTON CHAMPION
We tell the SE7 stories you won’t read elsewhere. And we’ll do the others better than anyone else. We can’t do it without your help.
– Please tell us about your news and events
– Become a monthly supporter at presspatron.com/charltonchampion
– Donate to our running costs at paypal.me/charltonchampion