Help us keep saved Angerstein Wharf crossing safe, Network Rail asks neighbours

Angerstein crossing
Gates have since been installed at the Angerstein crossing

Network Rail bosses have asked neighbours and passers-by to watch out for misuse and vandalism at the Angerstein Wharf railway crossing, which has been saved from closure this week.

The track company had threatened to close the historic footpath across the single-track freight branch line, which links streets around Fairthorn Road and Gurdon Road to Westcombe Park station, but reversed the decision on Wednesday after a campaign by local residents.

Safety issues were cited as the reason for closing the crossing, but Network Rail said that an independent review by its head of passenger safety, Allan Spence, found that safety measures in place were sufficient to make the Angerstein path an exception to its normal rules on crossings.

Network Rail now plans to straighten out rights-of-way issues at the crossing

Network Rail now plans to upgrade the footsteps to the crossing, installing a new surface on the crossing itself, and is considering installing CCTV to watch the area.

“I am counting on cooperation of people who use the crossing and would be grateful for misuse and vandalism – anything that takes place that is unsafe – is challenged and reported,” Fiona Taylor, Network Rail’s route director for Kent, told a Zoom call for neighbours of the crossing on Wednesday evening.

The crossing would remain open so long as there were no incidents which called its safety into question, Taylor said.

Peninsula ward councillor Chris Lloyd, who also attended the meeting, backed Taylor’s call for help. “An interface between people in the railway isn’t what we would do today,” he said. “We don’t want to be here again should we find out that the crossing as been abused and it’s up for closure once again.”

Questions of rights of way around the land also needed to be sorted out with landowners and Greenwich Council, Taylor added.

The crossing was originally built for farm workers in the 1850s when the privately-built Angerstein Wharf line was built to link the new North Kent line to the Thames. It has grown in importance in recent years with the building of new housing on the former Thorn Lighting site off Victoria Way and Fairthorn Road, with 675 people recorded as using the crossing each day.

The meeting was told that rerouting the footpath under the railway line would cost £3 million, although these costs were challenged. Lloyd suggested that funding from developers could be used to help pay for any path under the line.


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Network Rail scraps plans to close Angerstein Wharf foot crossing

Angerstein crossing family
The crossing has been a local landmark since the 1850s

Charlton Champion exclusive: Plans to close Angerstein Wharf foot crossing have been cancelled by Network Rail, people who live close to the branch line will be told at a meeting this evening.

The historic crossing over a single-track freight line, one of the last of its kind left in London, connects residents in and near Fairthorn Road, Charlton, with Farmdale Road in east Greenwich and a footbridge over the A102 to Westcombe Park station.

Network Rail had initially planned to close the crossing in 2019 as part of a resignalling programme. But it faced a wave of opposition from local residents and Matt Pennycook, the local MP, and the track company backed away and announced a review of the proposal.

About 675 people use the crossing each day, and they would have been expected to reroute via Woolwich Road had the crossing been closed.

When the proposal was revived in May, Network Rail claimed that the crossing was the most dangerous in its Kent region. However, The Charlton Champion revealed two months later that this claim was false – and there were actually 33 other crossings that were more dangerous.

Network Rail amended its claim to state that the crossing was the most dangerous in south-east London – however, there are no other crossings like it in south-east London.

News that the closure has been cancelled emerged in an email from Matt Pennycook to those involved in the campaign to save the crossing.

“It would appear that, as a result of the collective pressure we exerted, an independent review was commissioned by Network Rail which concluded that there are sufficient grounds in this case to disapply the national algorithm that the organisation uses to determine safety risk at individual crossings,” Pennycook said.

“As such, Network Rail are content to treat Angerstein as an exception to their general policy vis-à-vis such crossing closures.”

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.

Network Rail has been contacted for comment. It is due to hold a meeting with neighbours this evening to discuss the findings of its review.


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Angerstein Wharf crossing: Network Rail sorry after wrongly claiming footpath was most dangerous

Angerstein crossing family
The crossing has existed since the line was built in the 1850s

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.

The Charlton Champion has also obtained a spreadsheet of incidents at the crossing since January 2018.

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.

Angerstein Wharf crossing gate
A broken gate was one of the 13 incidents recorded at the crossing

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.


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