SAFETY improvements have been made at three level crossings in Hexham.

The Bells level crossing has been downgraded from a public highway to a bridleway in order to prevent use by vehicles. Telephones have also been installed for horse riders.

Meanwhile, Tyne Green level crossing and footpath will be permanently closed. Pedestrians will instead be able to cross at Bells level crossing, approximately 100m away.

Spital level crossing will also be downgraded to a bridleway, with full access for pedestrians, cyclists and horses maintained. 

Network Rail, which operates the UK’s railway infrastructure, said the scheme has allowed for an additional route to be created on the riverside of the railway and improvements have been carried out to the existing riverside route.

Darren Lord, route level crossing manager for Network Rail, said: "This project has been discussed for many years and has been carried out with the full backing and involvement of the Northumberland County Council and Hexham Town Council. 

"Both Bells and Spital crossings were skewed previously, but we've changed these so that pedestrians are able to cross in a straight line. This will shorten the time that users are on the railway by making it quicker and safer for them to cross."

Councillor Colin Horncastle, cabinet member for community services at Northumberland County Council, said: "I fully welcome these plans to make Bells level crossing a public highway.

"We are all well aware of the dangers of level crossings and I'm pleased to see these safety measures be put in place."