TWO levels crossing on Wearside are to close as part of a multi-million-pound national safety programme.
The crossings, at Ryhope and Seaham, will shut as part of a massive investment to improve safety on the railways.
Last year, 10 people were killed at level crossings across the UK and there were 10 collisions between trains and vehicles.
Network Rail, which manages the UK’s railway infrastructure, took the decision to close 750 crossings nationwide.
It has now reached its target of closing 10 per cent of crossings by April this year, most of which are footpath or manually-operated crossings.
Seaham councillor Eddie Bell admits there were some fears when the plans were first mooted.
He said: “We did raise concerns regarding the closing of the crossing, but Network Rail have got absolute say on whether they close it or not.
“We did get what we thought was a good option of a walk-through subway.
“We pushed them about lighting and stuff, because we were concerned about antisocial behaviour.
He added: “To be fair, they did do what we asked.”
Network Rail has also invested £13million in a national improvement scheme – including installing power-operated gates which cannot be left open.
Phil Verster, route managing director, said: “Our focus on level crossings means that our railway is safer than ever before.
“The closure of the 750th crossing is a significant milestone but there is more work to be done.
“Where motorists or pedestrians cross the railway on the level there is a risk to users.
“My team and I are committed to reducing that risk to the minimum possible.
“We will continue our focus both on our infrastructure and our work with schools, communities and other organisations to spread awareness of our safety message.
He added: “Successfully closing a crossing isn’t always a straightforward process.
“I thank our local authorities, landowners and the public for the help they have given us to meet this target and ask for their support as we look to continue the closure programme and improve safety further still.”
The company has pledged to close a further 500 crossings in the next five years, in a further bid to improve safety.