Concern over rail station mast

PUBLISHED: 10:11 06 December 2009 | UPDATED: 15:51 03 July 2010

VISITORS to Acle will soon have a new landmark greeting them when they arrive at the village- a 15m high monopole communications mast being installed by Network Rail.

VISITORS to Acle will soon have a new landmark greeting them when they arrive at the village- a 15m high monopole communications mast being installed by Network Rail.

The firm, which owns and operates Britain's rail infrastructure, is planning to install the mast at the village's railway station as part of a new communications system being installed across the country to enable continuous contact between train drivers and signallers.

However, the plans have sparked concerns among parish councillors who felt Acle villagers may object to the structure, having previously objected to a new phone mast in the village.

On Monday, councillor Diane Fisher told a meeting of the parish council: “A phone mast in that area received a lot of objections from people living across the whole of Acle and not just in Station Road.”

In 2004, Broadland District Council refused a planning application by mobile phone company Orange to site a 22m high on land next to Auction Mart in Norwich Road, Acle after hundreds of villagers complained.

Fears were raised about the possible health effects of signals from the mast and the effect it would have on an area of natural beauty surrounded by trees with preservation orders.

But a Network rail spokesman said the rail mast would not affect residents' health as signals only travelled down railway tracks in thin waves rather than outwards in 360 degree circles to the surrounding area like mobile phone masts.

The new system will cover the whole country and is being developed based on the recommendations of reports into a number of rail accidents which revealed communication failures.

The spokesman added: “The masts being installed by Network Rail at sites across the country will allow direct and continuous communication between train drivers and signallers, considerably improving safety, reliability and punctuality for all passengers.

“When selecting a site for communications masts we take great care to evaluate the local environment and community issues, as well as choosing a site which meets our operational requirements.

“The need to provide 100pc coverage is paramount. The Railway Communications System is safety-critical and gaps in the coverage are unacceptable. Following detailed planning and investigation it was established that a site in the area of Acle station is needed to achieve coverage on this part of Norfolk's railway.”

The system will replace analogue radio communications which are being phased out. Network Rail does not need planning permission for the mast as it has permitted development rights on the land.

No date has yet been set for the mast's installation.

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