THERE is light at the end of the tunnel for a scheme to make improvements at a busy level crossing near Seaford.
Network Rail said the money has now been secured for the project at Tide Mills Level Crossing, which will see extra-wide self-closing gates installed.
Campaigners say the changes are needed at the unmanned site, following a series of near misses in the last few years.
Jim Skinner, chair of the Friends of Tide Mills, along with Access in Seaford and Newhaven Committee have been in talks with Network Rail for the improvements to be made.
The campaigners say the current gates are inadequate and are difficult to access, especially for wheelchair users and people with buggies.
Last year Mr Skinner said he believed the dilapidated state of the crossing was a contributory factor in incidents which saw near misses in the area.
He said, “Our argument all along is Tide Mills is increasingly popular with a number of people now, we really do want a system which enables people to get across the track.
Of the latest news he added, “It’s a major step forward after all this time.
“A lot of progress had been made, it’s been a long slog but at least there is light at the end of the tunnel.
“Network Rail has been very co-operative and working with us which appreciate.”
He also praised Seaford MP Norman Baker who has been involved with the campaign. The secured funds will be used for phase two of the scheme for the gates to be improved. Local councils and Newhaven Port Properties have previously pledged financial support for the project, although it is not known if this will be needed for the improvements. Phase one of the scheme has already taken place which has seen fencing installed near the track but some residents have argued that this has made the crossing even less useable.
A spokesperson for Network Rail confirmed funding was is in place to carry out the upgrade to the crossing and, regarding the fencing, added, “We have installed some fencing at Tide Mills footpath crossing to shorten the distance between the point at which someone checks it is safe to cross and makes the decision to proceed and the opposite side of the track they are trying to reach.
“The fencing creates a short walkway which is already wider than the minimum standards set by the Office of Rail Regulation, however, in response to feedback from local people we are looking to increase the width as part of phase two, if not beforehand.”