PLANS to replace a railway crossing with a subway will attract trouble, it was claimed today.
Network Rail is carrying out consultations to close the crossing over the tracks at Seaham Railway Station and open the subway instead.
However, Seaham Town Council is campaigning to keep it open.
Members fear that the underpass, which would not be covered by CCTV, would be a hot spot for thugs and substance abusers.
Councillors claim there is already evidence that the existing space under the tracks is used for boozing.
They also say the existing crossing already has an excellent safety record.
Members hope people will voice their own views through consultation.
Council leader Ed Mason said: “We have serious concerns regarding the potential antisocial behaviour which may occur in the underpass and for the safety of individuals who, if this goes ahead, will have no choice but to use the secluded underpass and will undoubtedly feel very vulnerable when using it, especially at night.
“People could get attacked there and it is a given that all sorts of abuse will be possible.”
He said the authority has asked Durham County Council if it would reopen the crossing to road traffic, which would keep the pedestrian route in place.
Coun Ken Younger added: “We’re concerned because it has a good health and safety record, and this will be a longer access route for the elderly, disabled and those with prams.”
Clive Todd, who runs the newsagent shop next to the station, says his business could benefit from the closure as people may use his shop rather than reach others in Station Road.
Nevertheless, he is still against it and is writing to the Government to voice his objections.
He said: “It’s very secluded and a perfect place for mugging and it’s already been used by druggies.
“Even if they had CCTV, it’s never stopped anyone from being mugged.”
The plans to close the crossing is the latest in the saga of the proposed tunnel.
It previously hit the buffers when land which would have been used for a way in and out of the underpass turned out to be the property of the Ebenezer Evangelical Church – which refused to sell up – leaving the tunnel leading to a dead end.
It is now going through the process of a compulsory purchase order to buy the plot, and a neighbouring piece of land which belongs to the town council.
RAIL bosses say that closing crossings across the country is a must to protect passengers.
Network Rail also the replacement underpass in Seaham will not result in a “significant fear of crime.”
A spokeswoman added: “It is not acceptable to us to wait for an accident to take action, if we have opportunity to reduce risk by closing a crossing.
“We have held active discussions with the town council and done all we can to accommodate their requests, for example by indicating that we would support their aspiration to connect the existing footpath network from the town centre to Mary Magdalene church to the new walkway.
“We will install street lighting and provide an open walkway route, with wide foot and cycle provision and seeded embankments protected by palisade fence.
“As to alternatives to a subway, the terrain of the site, which has one side significantly higher than the other, means that any bridge structure would be very high, very bulky in order to provide access for all users and unsightly.”
She said Network Rail is not funded to operate CCTV, and any system would have to be monitored by the police or a council.
However, it was happy to discuss the issue further.
The organisation would “strongly object” to reopening the road.
It has also said the subway and crossing closure is not being carried out for financial reasons.
Residents can view the plans at Seaham Library, until Wednesday, September 5.
They are there from 9.30am to 7pm on weekdays, except Wednesdays, when they are on show from 9.30am to 12.30pm.
Saturday sessions to run from 9am to 1pm.