CAMPAIGNERS are celebrating after the long-awaited chicane crossing at Goviers Lane in Watchet was completed on time and to budget.
The former crossing caused upset in the town when self-closing gates fitted in July 2010 for safety reasons proved difficult, if not impossible, for disabled and elderly people to open.
After lengthy discussions a solution was agreed and West Somerset Council, which contributed more than £22,000 towards the £66,000 scheme, co-ordinated the subsequent work.
Somerset County Council provided just over £24,000, West Somerset Railway £15,000 and Watchet Town Council just under £5,000.
John Irven, who was instrumental in bringing the stakeholder group together with campaigners and the community to find a solution, is pleased with the new crossing.
He said: “This is a great success and can hopefully serve as a best practice example of how collaborative partnership working can meet local community needs, as well as demonstrating the value of the Equalities Act in addressing the needs of minorities.
“We would have ideally liked this sooner, but it’s been well worth waiting for, and gives us a wonderful Christmas present for Watchet.”
Motorised wheelchair user and key campaigner Jean Kent endorsed the chicane system. She said:
“This is a brilliant improvement for those of us using wheelchairs and buggies – it’s absolutely perfect for me and my dog, Nellie.”
Steve Watts, district council officer responsible for the project, said: “West Somerset Council is extremely pleased that the new system has been successfully managed by Mike Riley Associates and installed by contractors G.A. Sully and Sons, who managed to ensure that with the help and forbearance of local users that the crossing remained open while building work was undertaken.”
Railway general manager Paul Conibeare added: “We hope that everyone using the new design footpath crossing will take extra care when approaching the ‘stop, look and listen’ boards, and ensure that they do not take the risk of crossing in front of any of our trains which may be approaching.”
Although the crossing is now open for everyday use, voluntary group Watchet Conservation Society will plant some of the areas next to the crossing.
West Somerset Railway will host an official opening ceremony on February 18.