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Fen Road crossing: ‘We shouldn’t expect people to die before we spend some money’

Labour councillor Martin Smart has called for action over the Fen Road crossing in Cambridge before someone dies.

The area has been plagued by anti-social behaviour but the Cambridge north area committee heard on Thursday (September 5) that more evidence was needed before full CCTV could be installed.

Cllr Smart asked: “How many deaths is it going to take before something has happened?”

A British Transport Police inspector urged residents at the meeting to keep “anti-social behaviour diaries” - and warned his force’s response times can be “horrific”.

Police officers Jess Denniff and Gary May on patrol in Fen Road, Cambridge. Picture: Keith Heppell
Police officers Jess Denniff and Gary May on patrol in Fen Road, Cambridge. Picture: Keith Heppell

Inspector Gary Pinner told residents he would try and address their concerns but suggested it might not be an easy fix.

He said his team’s focus as been “perhaps taken away” by problems at other level crossings in the county, but said they would “refocus” and work better with Cambridgeshire Constabulary.

“I think that the issue that I have got is the stats I have got don’t make a fair reflection of the issues at the crossing,” the inspector said.

The figures, he said, show there were only three anti-social behaviour reports made to his team since January 1, 2017.

He said: “I don’t believe that to be true for a moment”.

He believed that there was “probably under reporting” based on a lack of confidence the police would respond.

He said in total there had been 30 incidents of all types reported at the level crossing in that time, seven of which had been trespass as a result of mental health crises.

And he also said there were jurisdictional issues, describing how when the barriers are down British Transport Police take the lead, but when the barriers are up incidents tend to be taken by Cambridge Constabulary.

He said: “What I would start advising you to do potentially is keeping ASB [anti-social behaviour] diaries as it were, so recording incidents, recording vehicles’ registrations, of people that are causing issues, but not putting yourself in danger in doing so.”

He encouraged residents to bring issues directly to him, and to keep reporting them, and said “if I can get officers there then I will”.

But he also suggested that may not always be the case, saying: “Normally I have two officers that cover 1,900 square miles… you can imagine our response times are horrific.”

The meeting heard that CCTV on the crossing captures images at certain times, for example when a train is in the intersection, but is not at all times capturing images that can be used for prosecutions..

Clare Webb, an operations manager at Network Rail, said: “We have recently installed CCTV at a crossing at Cherry Hinton and that is what I would deem your run of the mill, 24/7, normal CCTV.

“And we had to write quite an extensive business case to get that and to apply for funding of £40,000 because [we] get relentless calls for trespass due to the location of Fulbourn Hospital. And that was a huge, huge case, and has taken several months to get, so just in order to ensure that people’s expectations are managed, we can look at doing that but only if we get the evidence in the reports from you that that is required.”

She said better statistics at the Fen Road crossing would assist Network Rail with putting together a case for CCTV or other measures there.

Cllr Smart said he welcomed the organisations attending the meeting and trying to assist but was critical of the delay in addressing the issues.

“We shouldn’t be expecting human beings to die before we spend some money,” he said.

Ms Webb responded by saying it was wrong to think Network Rail takes safety lightly and insisted work is under way to improve the crossing.

Read more

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Multi-agency group to look at long-term solutions to anti-social behaviour in Cambridge's Fen Road

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