Ambulance bosses: Kirknewton crossing poses risk

The rail crossing at Kirknewton. Picture: Ian Rutherford

The rail crossing at Kirknewton. Picture: Ian Rutherford

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AMBULANCE bosses fear new safety barriers at a controversial rail crossing could actually cost lives – because of the traffic delays they would cause.

They claim new gates at a danger crossing near Kirknewton could snarl traffic to a halt, costing vital minutes.

Statistics, based on ambulance call-out data, show fitting the barriers could actually put around 40 lives in danger.

It has already been revealed that traffic would face waiting times of up to almost 12 minutes at the killer crossing under the plans being pursued by Network Rail. In total, it is claimed the barriers could be down for as much as 36 minutes each hour during peak periods.

A spokesman for the Scottish Ambulance Service said: “Historical data shows that, on average, the response to 120 calls each year from people in need of emergency access to health care may be significantly delayed, with one area at particular risk including a church and a primary school.

“Of those 120 people, 40 will be in immediate danger of losing their life. We consider this risk to be unacceptable and would ask Network Rail to revisit alternative solutions.”

The call from ambulance staff, however, has left some fuming.

Louise Mitchell, who lost both of her legs and an arm after being hit by an inter-city train at the crossing aged just 19 in 2005, believes rail officials need to urgently fit the barriers.

She said: “I don’t think it’s safe at all. It’d be better to be stuck there too long than an accident happening.

“I think life’s more important than sitting there for five or ten minutes. People actually go the long way round to avoid the crossing. They should hurry up and fix it.”

Now 27, Ms Mitchell has called for full safety barriers and a pedestrian overpass to be built at the location rated as the third most dangerous level crossing in Scotland.

The crossing lies on the B701 – the main road between Kirknewton and East Calder. The site has a notorious history for fatal and serious accidents, with pedestrians and vehicles able to run the risk of moving around crossing barriers.

Robert Lindsay, 77, from Livingston, was killed in 2004 when a train hit his car on the Edinburgh-to-Glasgow Central railway line after the vehicle became stuck on the rails.

Police Scotland confirmed officers in West Lothian had also expressed concerns about crossing plans including the lack of provision for pedestrians, while West Lothian Council has also urged a rethink.

Network Rail said its plans do not include a pedestrian bridge or overpass.

“The new level crossing will greatly enhance safety at Kirknewton and discourage abuse of the crossing,” the firm has said.

“The underpass was unpopular with residents and was financially unviable.”