TRANSPORT bosses at County Hall hope to eventually construct a second footpath linking Northport to central Wareham, in a bid to ease any railway pedestrian crossing issues in the Purbeck town.

An emergency timetable has been in place at the town's pedestrian railway crossing throughout February, after staffing issues severely curtailed its operational hours.

However, the crossing should be returning to normal, with the gate manned by a guard from 6am-1am the following morning, by the beginning of March.

Writing an open letter to Wareham ward councillor Beryl Ezzard, Dorset County Council (DCC) cabinet member for the natural and built environment, Cllr Daryl Turner, said: "Our hope is that we can engineer a footway adjacent to the road to join the community with the town."

This footway would be built alongside the A351 which crosses the railway lines.

Cllr Turner added: "This will provide access from one side of the town to the other, enabling those with mobility issues and parents with pushchairs to remain safely and easily connected to essential community services on foot.

"We recognise that residents very much value the ability to get from one side of the crossing to the other without having to use steps, and whilst other previous proposals have not progressed, we very much hope that this will suit the people of Wareham.

"We will keep residents updated with plans as they progress."

The councillor also apologised to residents, particularly the town's elderly, disabled and those with pushchairs, and insisted officers had been "working tirelessly and outside normal hours" to try to find a resolution to the current crossing staff issues.

Three of the four gate attendants resigned within a three week period.

Since the implementation of new safety regulations at the crossing in 2009, a safety attendant has operated gates between 6am-1am.

Network Rail has wanted to close the crossing, citing safety concerns, for a number of years now – however locals have campaigned in their hundreds to keep it open, arguing to move it would be to effectively cut the town in half.

Campaigners and planners have been at loggerheads about the best way forward, with current plans to erect ramps to the station's existing footbridge the subject of a number of unresolved planning applications.

The crossing was closed at the end of January, after a 12-year-old boy reported narrowly avoiding being hit by a train.

This, coupled with staff shortages, forced the closure and subsequent emergency timetable, with the crossing manned 8am-6pm, seven days a week

Now, DCC says contractor STM has "assured" them, the crossing will return to normal hours from March 1.

Meanwhile, Cllr Turner said: "To prove our commitment to the future of the crossing we are building a welfare kiosk for STM staff which will house things like a boiling water tap, WC and rest area.

"We do not anticipate the planned footway to replace the current crossing arrangements."