controversial plans for a £12 million underpass to replace a dangerous level crossing have been scrapped in favour of extra barriers and a high-tech sensor.
The crossing at Kirknewton, West Lothian – rated the third most dangerous in Scotland – has been the scene of a string of serious accidents.
Network Rail’s underpass proposal proved unpopular with residents because it would have meant the loss of local farmland and there were safety concerns about people using it late at night.
Now the rail company has brought forward an alternative plan for a full barrier crossing with cutting-edge technology to detect objects on the line.
Optical remote sensing technology will scan for obstacles on the track. If an object is detected, trains will not be given the signal to proceed.
The latest proposal will come in several million pounds cheaper, and the new crossing is expected to be operational by summer 2013.
Network Rail route managing director David Simpson said: “We developed plans for an underpass at this location. However, it was clear from the response we received from the local community that this was not a popular solution.
“The new proposal will minimise the need for land purchase and prevent the extensive disruption which would have been required to build an underpass in the area.
“It will also provide greatly improved safety at a far lower cost.” Robert Lindsay, 77, from Livingston, died in 2004 when a train hit his car on the Edinburgh-to-Glasgow Central railway line after the vehicle became stuck on the rails.
In March 2005, Kirknewton resident Louise Mitchell, 19, lost both legs and an arm when she was struck by a train travelling at 80mph.
CCTV footage showed the teenager walking around the barriers as her train moved off, without realising another train was approaching from the opposite direction.
Angela Constance, SNP MSP for Almond Valley, said: “I welcome the change of plans as announced by Network Rail.
“Addressing the serious safety concerns at Kirknewton level crossing is long overdue. I am delighted that a new improved solution has been found and one which is not only less costly but far less disruptive to the local community.”
Livingston Labour MP Graeme Morrice said: “I welcome this common-sense decision. While safety improvements at this crossing are long overdue, the previous proposals would have been extremely disruptive for local people and also incredibly costly. What Network Rail is now proposing appears to be more proportionate and appropriate to the circumstances in Kirknewton.”
Hugh Hunter-Gordon, chair of Kirknewton community council, said they were due to get more details next week from Network Rail about the crossing.
“Among the issues we are not clear about is how available the crossing will be for passengers to cross the line to catch their train,” he said.