Tunnel under Chichester railway line ‘not feasible’ - senior councillor

Proposed underpass to replace the Basin Road level crossing (photo submitted). SUS-190201-105515001
Proposed underpass to replace the Basin Road level crossing (photo submitted). SUS-190201-105515001

The idea of including an underpass as part of the Southern Gateway scheme has already been deemed ‘unfeasible’, according to a council cabinet member.

Chichester District Council is leading on a project to redevelop the area stretching from the law courts to the canal, including the Royal Mail sorting office, bus depot and bus station.

A number of residents and councillors lobbied for the inclusion of a road bridge over the railway line so the two crossings could be closed but this was not included in the council’s masterplan.

At a council meeting last Tuesday (June 23) a member of the Chichester Society said they advocated an underpass as a way of removing both level crossings.

In response Tony Dignum, cabinet member for finance, growth, place and regeneration, said that consultants had looked at the tunnel idea and found it ‘unfeasible, undeliverable and undesirable’.

He said: “Most people would prefer there were no level crossings that’s why the consultants were asking to look at the possibility of closing the level crossings.”

There were a number of reasons he listed as to why the idea of a tunnel was dismissed: the estimated £10million cost, the substantial land take, flood risk, air quality issues, the problem of running rail services during construction, the need to relocate underground services and a culvert as well as bringing more traffic into the heart of the city.

He concluded: “The issues have been thoroughly studied.”

In a letter to the Observer this week Richard Plowman, a Lib Dem district and city councillor, argued that an underpass is feasible and had been confirmed by two senior railway engineers.

He said: “The Southern Gateway if developed properly is a good opportunity to get rid of the level crossing and revitalise Chichester with a much needed large Forum venue and 250 bed international branded hotel for performance, exhibition, conferencing and a large night club.

“We should not let this opportunity pass and be left only with a mediocre housing scheme.”