NETWORK Rail bosses have been accused of breaking their word as a long-running dispute over an Uppermill fence enters its second year.
Residents have been campaigning since last May when the rail company erected a metal barrier on Den Lane to prevent bike-riding youngsters trespassing on the track.
When the Friends of Saddleworth group highlighted the fence hadn’t stopped determined riders Network Rail moved in to put up another fence before Christmas.
Opponents of the scheme only discovered the new work was taking place when contractors turned up on site.
This, they say, went against a pledge from Network Rail to engage with the community before any further work on the quiet location, adjacent to the Grade II listed railway viaduct.
Martin Frobisher, route managing director for London North Western, contacted the Friends group on December 12.
He wrote: “You asked what Network Rail had learnt from this and what we plan to do differently in future.
“We have learnt that we must improve our communication with local people on work that impacts them.
“This applies to our urgent repairs to the fence at Uppermill as well as to our Trans-Pennine Route Upgrade (TRU) scheme.
“I believe if we had engaged with local people earlier and more clearly, it is likely you would not feel that way.
“Regarding the urgent repairs to the railway boundary fence following trespass reports, I think it is important to note we had to balance the immediate need to address a critical safety issue with the need to inform and update local people.
“I believe we could and should have done better to strike that balance.”
Mr Frobisher also admitted an original ecology survey didn’t assess the viaduct for the potential of roosting bats.
Within days of the letter work on the second fence took place without warning.
A spokesperson for the Friends said: “Network Rail said they would contact us before any other work was done.
“However they have tried to sneak yet another fence up without saying anything to anyone.
“They have turned a conservation area into Alcatraz.”
Chris Pye, Network Rail’s infrastructure maintenance manager for the area, said: “Safety is our top priority.
“The consequences of railway trespass can be tragic. Our railway boundary fence is a legal necessity to prevent people trespassing on the railway.
“It’s disappointing that a small minority of people are wilfully choosing to ignore the safety measures we have in place.
“It is essential we further strengthen the fence and do everything we can to prevent risk to life and limb.”