Anyone who lives locally will be aware of the congestion that the level-crossing in Reigate causes to traffic in and around Reigate. At peak times, the barrier can be down for up to 15 minutes per hour.
Whilst engineering solutions to remove the level crossing altogether have been considered, such as a bridge or underpass, to date all of these have proved too costly to be realistic.
The problem is just about to be exacerbated by two factors:
- Great Western Railway’s franchise commitment to increasing the number of Gatwick bound services which will add two more closures of the crossing barrier (one each way) per hour, from May 2020, and
- an estimated 50 weeks of road works from January 2020 at M25 Junction 8 at the top of Reigate Hill. After completion, the new junction will enable traffic to flow more easily from the M25 onto Reigate Hill, potentially compounding congestion.
Along with County and Borough Councillors, I have been seeking means to mitigate the impending likely increase in congestion on Reigate Hill. This is not a simple process but some key elements will contribute to this:
- Surrey County Council initiating a full traffic review of Reigate Hill to establish exactly what the pinch-points and potential traffic flow improvements may be.
- Exerting pressure on Network Rail and the Department for Transport to replace the outdated train signaling systems at the Reigate level-crossing, which currently necessitate unnecessarily extended barrier downtime for each train crossing.
- Assessing the traffic flow and public safety benefits of converting the unmanaged pedestrian ‘zebra’ crossings nearest to the level-crossing into ‘pelican-crossings’
- Looking at traffic flow onto and off Reigate Hill from and onto side-roads near the level crossing to assess the impact of this on overall congestion.
Unfortunately, none of these proposals come without cost and it will be important to establish the cost/benefits of each. My view is that, at the very least, we need an up-to-date traffic analysis of the main causes of hold-ups on Reigate Hill, and a forecast as to how these will be affected by further downtime of the level-crossing. Currently, there is no empirical data on this. From a local perspective, this should be concluded before May 2020, so that a case can be made for an improvement programme to mitigate at least some of the congestion impact of additional rail crossings.
This is an integrated transport problem involving both rail and road, so it will be important for there to be active engagement from all stakeholders and from the Department for Transport if we are to find a solution.