A “lifeline” level crossing will stay open after Network Rail halted plans to close it.

Network Rail wanted to shut the Cottonmill Lane crossing in St Albans for safety reasons after repeated “misuse” but after a petition was launched by campaigners to save it, the body responsible for the railway network has backed down.

Instead, it has committed to delivering a number of safety improvements which will be implemented in 2019.

This includes straightening the crossing, installing new fencing to turn users in each direction before crossing, resurfacing the crossing to ensure buggies and wheelchairs don’t get stuck, highlighting the danger zone with a bright yellow crossing surface, drawing attention to the crossing ‘decision point’ with white fence posts and ground markings, improving the gates so they self-close, and retaining the 20mph speed restriction over the crossing.

Network Rail will also deliver a targeted safety campaign.

The Cottonmill crossing is on the Abbey Line which runs between St Albans Abbey and Watford Junction and people use it as a way to get across to the station and retail park, which includes Sainsbury’s.

Network Rail wanted to close the crossing due to fears people were not looking both ways when crossing while people would use it with headphones in or while wearing hoods.

In September, a man narrowly escaped being hit by a train on the crossing.

Under the closure plans, Network Rail proposed to create a footpath but people claimed it would add 40 minutes to their journey.

Councillor and member of the ‘Save Our Crossing Campaign’ said: “This is brilliant news and a triumph for local residents. It shows that people and politicians working together can make a difference.

“Now we have to make sure that Network Rail delivers the promised safety improvements and also that we all use the crossing responsibility. But it’s a great Christmas present for everyone.”

Phil Bibby, cabinet member for highways and the environment for Hertfordshire County Council added: “We welcome Network Rail’s announcement to halt plans to close the level crossing at Cottonmill Lane, St Albans.

“After receiving a petition signed by more than 1,600 people calling for the crossing to be kept open, I wrote to the chief executive of Network Rail. We welcome the opportunity to work with Network Rail and local people to ensure the crossing is as safe as it can be and remain open.”