No trains between Dunster and Minehead until October due to delays at the crossing


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The Seaward Way crossing at Minehead is unlikely to open until at least mid-October.

Bridgwater and West Somerset MP Ian Liddell-Grainger criticized the delay, saying the loss of trains will be “a blow” to the business community in Minehead.

The level crossing upgrade plan started in 2018 and the design was completed in 2020.

It was finally approved by the Office of Rail and Road (the regulator) in February 2021.

Preparatory work has already taken place at the site, but despite this, trains between Minehead and Dunster will not run until after the summer.

A statement, issued by West Somerset Railway (WSR) and Somerset County Council (SCC), said this “complex project” involves a number of agencies and equipment suppliers, and it has been “hit hard” by the Covid-19 pandemic.

“There have been supply chain issues for some key parts and most of the specialist rail contractors needed for this work are also currently required by Network Rail for vital work on the UK mainline,” said a spokesperson for WSR and SCC.

“We are fully aware of the importance of this service to local businesses in Minehead, which is why the WSR provides this bus service.

“A lot of preparatory work has already taken place, including a lot of off-site work.

“Despite the difficulties, the crossing is expected to be operational in time for the holiday season.”

Mr Liddell-Grainger said the business community deserves to be told why the delays have occurred.

“It has long been known that the level crossing is no longer suitable for its use due to the increase in road traffic,” he added.

“But what I and the local business community want to be told is why the delays crept in.

“From what I understood, the work was ready to start two years ago, but the company then insisted on installing ‘heritage’ rather than electrical signage.

“It would have added £ 80,000 to the total cost – an expense the County Council resisted.

“If that’s the case, then it’s completely ridiculous.

“The vast majority of people who use trains don’t care at all what kind of signals are installed – they just want to get on the tracks – and in most cases get to Minehead. ”

In a recent newsletter, WSR said there was “no one answer” as to why the upgrade is taking so long.

Although they thought about a level crossing in the design phase, they realized that it was too expensive and therefore created a new level crossing.

In addition, the level crossing itself has to be substantial to cope with the increased foot traffic, so they have to build double gates all over the road, rather than the previous half gates.

Other reasons for delays include:

  • The first stage of the project involves many WSR volunteers – all of whom have been stuck at home for long periods of time due to the various Covid-19 blockages.
  • Additionally, obtaining various equipment was a challenge due to the pandemic for stages one and two.

WSR has also launched a £ 1million SOS fundraising appeal, after failing to receive a second round grant from the Culture Recovery Fund.

To donate visit west-somerset-railway.co.uk/donations.

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