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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Cycling into the future: Where to ride with Charlton’s new cycleway coming?

Faraday Works
Faraday Works – the long-closed Siemens factory – is on the Thames cycle route

The pandemic has pushed many people to get back on their bikes or try cycling for the first time. CLAIRE SELBY is one of them. With Charlton’s new cycleway under construction, she’s been brushing up on her cycle skills on the Thames Path…

Prompted by a couple of my dearest female friends who bought cycles in the first lockdown, I finally bit the bullet a few days before Christmas and got myself a city bike. I used Cycles UK in Deptford and found them ridiculously helpful for a complete novice. Panniers, rack, mudguards, a helmet and a lock later I wheeled my way out of the shop. I knew I could cycle most of the way back to Charlton along the river on the Thames Path but I hadn’t actually done it.

Context here: I haven’t cycled since I was about 14 years old, which is a long time ago and not in London. I didn’t like the idea of trying Boris bikes, and there are unbelievably no hubs yet near Charlton or Greenwich. But sometimes you just have to go for it, and go for it I did.

During the first lockdown I had three local walks I did very often: Charlton via Westcombe Park to Greenwich via the park, walk up and across to Blackheath Village and then Charlton round the O2 via the Thames Path. I got reacquainted with my local area again quietly as I had done through mudlarking over the past couple of years on the foreshore outside the Anchor and Hope. Traversing the area by cycle is quite different, but much more fun. You realise just how long a bus can take. Cycling along the Thames Path will never get old or dull for me. The absolute exhilaration of being near the river, on a designated and pretty decently maintained surface is quite the rush.

From my house off Woolwich Road I can easily cut down the usually quiet Horn Lane, use the Bugsby’s Way crossing and go down Peartree Way right up to the yacht club and then have a glorious cycle right around the O2. Soon I’ll be able to come out of my road and go immediately onto the new cycle track either all the way to Greenwich or Woolwich.

Thames Path bridge
The metallic bridge on the Thames cycle path

My favourite part of cycling in Charlton is the Thames Barrier. If you cycle from Woolwich and follow the Thames Path, you cycle alongside the river on your right, across the white metallic bridge by the marvellous Thames-Side Studios and slide right down the slope onto Warspite Road. Hook a right, sneak through the gate and cycle alongside the beautiful old warehouse buildings. How long until Faraday Works opens? I can’t wait! You come to a small restriction barrier, onto tarmac humps and there you are – the Barrier! It feels so un-London I love it. Did you know it has its own Twitter account? The glistening peaks of the Barrier hit with sunlight never fail to delight me.

I recently learnt of a proposal to build a bridge alongside the Barrier, why ever not? Recently I arranged to meet a friend there: as I got there I realised he was on the other side of the river.

My next goal is to use the Woolwich Ferry to go north, which should be an adventure. Sadly due to the redevelopment west of the ferry means you can no longer cycle right beside the river, you have to take an awkward ride or walk alongside the road and then rejoin a diversion through one of the new developments. But oh, it is surely worth it because as soon as you pop out, you are right alongside the almost mythical Woolwich Dockyard fishing lakes. Apparently there is still a 40lb carp in there somewhere according to one of the lads fishing there.

South London Aquatic Centre
The old South East London Aquatic Centre in Woolwich, which has been earmarked for development for many years

On cycling trips around the Peninsula, I have played with cycling back on part of the new cycle lane westbound from Greenwich towards Charlton. As long time residents and avid readers of The Charlton Champion will know, one of the main reasons for this cycle track being developed was the number of fatalities on the Angerstein Roundabout. Even as a pedestrian it is always quite hairy crossing the A102 – the car is king. As a cyclist now, you can’t take an unbroken route to cross it but they have made it a little easier by widening lanes and utilising the pedestrian lights to enable you to cross while still mounted. You still need to press three crossing buttons to do it though so it’s not entirely seamless.

Cycleway 4
Work is continuing on the new cycleway along Woolwich Road

The traffic on Woolwich Road and around the Blackwall Tunnel has always been terrible ever since I moved south of the river about 24 years ago. Lockdown is the only thing that has made it less congested, and the new cycle lane makes things more accessible.

If you are also starting out or getting reacquainted with a bike there is an excellent company called Cycle Confident, which offers free cycle lessons for adults. I had one lesson in that weird limbo between Christmas and New Year amongst children with fancier bikes than mine, scooters, roller skates and everything in between. I highly recommend them and have booked a second now Covid restrictions allow.

I found this which is great: cyclingfallacies.com

Claire is on Twitter at @sitdowncomedian and blogs at Medium.

Do you have any hints and tips for local cycling? Please share them in the comments below.


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