This is not the most glamorous spywork but nevertheless of great significance to everyone who lives in Wye.
As previous posts have indicated, the level-crossing, closed for 28 minutes in every hour, often causes frustration to everyone approaching or leaving the village.
So I set out to find out how our level-crossing compares with those in Chartham (a manual gate, much like ours, right beside the station) and Canterbury West (an automatic gate, also right beside the station).
Here are the results: (The times indicated show how soon trains arrive after the barrier closes and how soon the barrier reopens)
It will come as no surprise to all those living in Wye that our gate is closed the longest. It’s harder to decide if we want to do anything about it? And, if we do, how we could change things?
There are plenty in the village who regard the level-crossing as a necessary barrier to keep out the Ashford horde and maintain a tranquility in the village by forcing the angriest motorist to ponder a while atop the bridge (or on Harville Road). Please switch off your engine!
But there are also many who say that it puts people off from visiting the village, turns them increasingly angry as they sit in the queue, and that, in the 21st century, it is simply wrong to be relying on a trudging, orange-jacketed individual to do something rather slowly that technology can deliver in seconds.
In short, the level-crossing certainly slows us down. And there are some who think that’s a good thing and some who think it bad.
It probably depends on your own pace of life.
Are you someone who enjoys whiling away the minutes watching scudding clouds, or the water off the weir, or the tame bunny rabbits who spend their lives spying on queuing motorists (or on the strange man timing closures of the level-crossing)?
Or is your life better suited to the clipped precision of the automatic gates? Ten flashes and they’re down. And then they’re up again and on we go. (Railway line? Was there really? I didn’t see it!)
My own position is somewhere in between. I would prefer the “Chartham solution” whereby we keep the manual gates but enable the operators to open and close them more quickly.
Do they really need to be closed for 4 minutes before the train comes I wonder? (In Chartham it seems to be 3.)
Much of the time seems to be spent by the signalman crossing from his cubbyhole next to the ticket office, across the tracks to the signal levers, and thence to the gates – a veritable odyssey!
Could we not, as part of the Neighbourhood Plan, relocate the cubbyhole closer to the levers – perhaps by relocating the listed signalbox which is currently sitting unloved at the opposite end of the other platform?
This would imitate the situation in Chartham where the signalbox is right beside the gates and the level-crossing is not nearly such an issue – as can be understood from the above figures.
The wait would certainly be shorter – but not too short (to my mind!)