HIGH pollution levels from idling vehicles at a level crossing in South Craven may tip the balance in favour of a permanent solution to reduce the back-log of traffic.

Network Rail bosses have said they will examine ways of reducing the barrier closure times at a number of level crossings in Yorkshire, and the Kildwick crossing is part of that scrutiny.

North Yorkshire County Council’s transport and environment scrutiny committee heard at a recent meeting that the level crossing at Kildwick was continuing to cause lengthy tailbacks and that Network Rail bosses had said it was to carry out a feasibility study to look at reducing the time time the barriers were down.

Currently the barriers are down for up to 50 minutes out of each hour.

But Glusburn and Cross Hills Parish Council chairman Ian Gibson said one way to help rationale towards looking for a permanent solution, such as a bridge, was to measure the amount of pollution.

"We have discussed the traffic problems caused by the amount of time the barriers along the line many times and have taken traffic surveys to gauge the volume. In our opinion traffic movements are getting steadily worse.

"I have been in traffic heading towards Cross Hills and ended up waiting in a queue as far back as the main roundabout to the south of Skipton.

"What should have been a five minute journey would take me half an hour," he said.

"We have been watching the work to monitor pollution levels in Sheffield recently and want to look at ways we can take measurements around the level crossing at Kildwick. There are set limits for clean air and if measurements there show it is exceptionally high it may prompt a movement (by the government) to do something about it.

"Ideally a bridge would solve the problem. A huge housing plan on farmland near the crossing did make provision for a bridge over the railway to meet up with the bypass if the plans went ahead but they were refused because of flooding problems."

Cllr Gibson said that because the likelihood a bridge will not materialise, if Network Rail can come up with a way of shaving off a few seconds from the barrier down times that will help.

"Sometimes you can be sitting in traffic at the crossing waiting for three trains to go past. That can take up to eight minutes. I'm told the barriers are automatically triggered as soon as a train enters Cononley station. If shaving some time off means the barriers can be raised between each train, at least some of the cars will be able to get through and ease congestion.

"It would help too if there was some sign stating how long the barriers were going to be down. At present you don't know if it's going to be 30 seconds or eight minutes," he said.

At the scrutiny meeting, county council officers said the issue across the county had been examined by the authority for many years, but solutions came out at costs between £10m and £30m.

Talks in the past have highlighted the potential at Kildwick for a bridge for vehicles over the crossing but nothing has been taken forward and is likely to be too costly.

Members of the scrutiny committee were told while the solution to the traffic congestion at all the crossings was likely to involve major infrastructure works and significant expenditure, this in all cases was “not affordable or deliverable at this time”.

The meeting heard the council had approached Network Rail to seek some joint working to try to identify whether there were any opportunities for more affordable rail schemes, one costing up to £1m, that could significantly reduce the closure time of key level crossings.

Officers said Network Rail had indicated there may be opportunities to make changes at the three crossings, including the one near Cross Hills.

The officers said Network Rail was undertaking further investigation work on the feasibility of the rail schemes and what impact the possible reductions in closure time may have on traffic congestion at these locations.

In parallel to those studies, the county council has commissioned traffic and queuing surveys at the level crossings so they can gauge the difference a reduction in level crossing closure time, of for example 40 seconds out of three minutes, might make to the tailbacks.

It is hoped the work will be completed by December for consideration of possible funding opportunities early in 2020.

After the meeting deputy leader of the county council, Councillor Gareth Dadd welcomed the ongoing studies and said any action to tackle the tailbacks that build up on a daily basis at the crossings would help remove blocks to economic growth.

He said: “This is really good news after decades of issues surrounding these level crossings. We can only hope that these solutions will be fruitful.”

A Network Rail spokesman confirmed the company was carrying out a feasibility study.