As anyone who lives in Lincoln knows, delays to pedestrians and drivers caused by the High Street railway crossing being closed so often (and for such lengthy periods) causes significant annoyance and frustration. A remedy may be in sight, thanks to a new European directive.
EU transport commissioner Olaf Pirol, has introduced EU Bahnkreuzung ordinance 01/04, which, if enacted, will come into force in the early spring of 2013.
This ordinance creates a new obligation on bodies responsible for operating railway crossings over roads throughout the EU to take appropriate steps to ensure all delays are kept to an acceptable minimum.
What is acceptable is not yet defined, but it is likely to be set at no more than three minutes from the gates or barriers being closed to them being re-opened.
Mr Pirol’s working party has identified that delays caused by such closures costs member states in excess of three billion Euros in lost productivity every year.
He is citing EU Equality Law, which is there to ensure that appropriate compensation is easily accessible in practice regardless of where in the EU a person becomes the victim of a delay by creating a system for cooperation between national authorities.
The principle is that if the operating authority fails to comply with this obligation, individuals so affected will be able to claim compensation.
Again, the exact detail is not yet known, but it has been suggested compensation of 2 Euros per minute for foot passengers and private car owners and 5 Euros per minute for commercial vehicles and buses will be payable.
To avoid fraud, a timing device is to be installed at all major crossings and foot passengers will need to produce a bar-coded ticket to corroborate subsequent claims. CCTV will validate vehicle owner claims in association with number plate recognition technology.
Although most people will cautiously welcome this policy, the stumbling block is that the ordinance only provides for compensation to be paid in Euros.
This is seen by many in the UK Government as being part of a much wider ploy to impose the European single currency onto Britain through the back door.
However, the proposal is still at an early stage so until legislation is passed, we Lincolnites will still have to put up with long waiting times and disruption to our daily routines.
Mr Pirol has said that he hopes this new directive will significantly improve waiting times at crossings, thus improving productivity.
If it works in Lincoln, perhaps he should be given the Freedom of the City!