Commuters say plans to shut a “dangerous” level crossing and replace it with a footpath are not an adequate solution.

Network Rail has proposed closing the Cottonmill Crossing, between Cottonmill Lane and Griffiths Way in St Albans, and held a meeting to discuss its future at St Julian’s Church, Abbots Avenue, last week.

Thousands of people have signed a petition to save the crossing, which the rail firm says is being shut due to “unacceptable incidents of deliberate misuse”.

They are furious at plans to create a footpath parallel to the track to St Albans Abbey station, because they claim it will add 40 minutes to their journey.

Neighbour Chantal Burns said: “The proposals do not make any improvements and there are still a few issues.

“Network Rail massively underestimated the strength of passion and the intelligence of the community.

“They were faced with questions and quite a few of them I don’t think they could answer.”

Ms Burns says the meeting was a success to show how strong the opposition to the crossing is - and the organisers at Network Rail ran out of feedback forms.

She added: “From the residents’ perspective it was a phenomenal success.

“We showed just how much the crossing was a lifeline to the residents.”

She says people feel the preferred option of a footpath parallel to the railway line is not a viable option.

Ms Burns said: “Most people crossing are not going to the station but are going to schools and shops.

“This route is beyond unacceptable – it doesn’t take people to where they need to.”

Network Rail says the crossing is consistently misused and in 2015 and 2017 it carried out an observation over 18 days and found 787 counts of dangerous use of the crossing.

Until a proposal is agreed with St Albans District Council, the rail company says it will make the path safer, with better surfacing and more lights.

Spokesman Simon Evans said: “Our priority is safety.

“We were surprised at the number of people that attended the meeting and heard the residents and their concerns.

“We didn’t reach an agreement over proposals but we went away hoping that we made it clear to the people we want to keep them and rail safe.

“We have to take into account the strong feelings of the people at the meeting.”