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However, after The Charlton Champion asked for the data that its statement was based on, Network Rail has withdrawn the claim – admitting that it is actually the 34th most dangerous crossing in the region.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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Angerstein Wharf crossing closure: Show me your evidence, MP tells Network Rail

Angerstein crossing
The crossing is used by people travelling to and from Westcombe Park station

Greenwich & Woolwich MP Matt Pennycook has asked Network Rail to provide the evidence for its plans to close the Angerstein Wharf rail crossing – including why the track company claims it is one of the most dangerous crossings in SE London and Kent.

The state-owned company confirmed last month that it was to close the link between Fairthorn Road in Charlton and Farmdale Road in east Greenwich, which connects local commuters to Westcombe Park station. It had originally planned to close the foot crossing in 2019, but paused its plans for a review.

Network Rail has said that the crossing must close on safety grounds, but Pennycook has written to the body asking for the evidence as to why the crossing is deemed unsafe, and why an alternative tunnel or footbridge under the single-track freight line cannot be provided.

The letter comes after the track company held a consultation meeting with local residents last week, which Pennycook said had been followed by “uniformly negative feedback”.

The nine-point letter asks:

  • if Network Rail will publish the review it undertook after its earlier decision to close the crossing;
  • for the evidence that passengers are climbing under or over stationary trains at the crossing;
  • what other safety measures have been considered;
  • the evidence behind claiming it was the most dangerous crossing in its Kent region;
  • why safety ratings for the crossing had changed over the years;
  • why Network Rail believes there is not a right of way at that location;
  • what assessment Network tail has made of the alternative route via Woolwich Road; and
  • what it is doing to address safety concerns for passengers who face having to use Woolwich Road if the crossing closes.

The crossing is one of just a handful of foot crossings of railway lines in the London area, and has been in existence since the Angerstein Wharf freight line was built across a route used by farm workers in 1852.

Network Rail, which has recently installed gates at the crossing, said last month that the number of incidents on the line – which regularly sees freight trains to heading to Angerstein Wharf on the Thames – meant it had to act and that it would be “in close communication with the local community about the alternative route which is chosen”.


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Angerstein Wharf rail crossing closure: Work to improve alternative route, MP tells Network Rail

Angerstein Wharf crossing gate
Gates were recently placed on the crossing

Network Rail needs to outline why it is closing the foot crossing across the Angerstein Wharf branch line – and should help improve the alternative route to Westcombe Park station, local MP Matt Pennycook has said.

The track company announced on Wednesday that it would be closing the footpath across the freight railway, two years after it pulled back from an earlier decision to remove the link, which is used by Charlton residents to reach Westcombe Park station. Network Rail says the unstaffed crossing, one of just a handful in London, is unsafe.

News of the closure was greeted with anger by locals on Wednesday, and Pennycook said on social media that Network Rail needed to do more to explain just why it had to close the path, which links Fairthorn Road in Charlton with Farmdale Road in east Greenwich and a footbridge to Westcombe Park. He also called for improvements to the alternative route, a narrow footpath under the dingy Woolwich Road railway bridge.

Woolwich Road
The dingy alternative route after dark

“The decision to close the Angerstein Wharf foot crossing without a replacement pedestrian link at the same location is deeply disappointing,” he said. “Network Rail must fully explain their reasoning and work with the local community to improve the alternative route to the A102 footbridge.”

Network Rail told The Charlton Champion on Wednesday that the crossing was the most dangerous in its Kent region, citing “many incidents where drivers of trains had to apply their emergency brakes to avoid people on the track”.

But neighbours responded with scepticism. “Maximum 2 trains a day travelling at 5mph. If there are safety issues, then surely a proper crossing or a tunnel would be the answer,” said one Twitter user; another, Ben Marshall, said: “This is madness. Primary school students having to navigate the perilous single file path on Woolwich Road is the real safety risk.”

Network Rail says it will consult with the local community about an alternative route before it closes the path, which opened as a route for farm workers in the 1850s. Two years ago, over 2,000 people signed a petition against the closure.


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