CIVIC leaders and residents have reacted angrily following a ‘shambolic’ fortnight closure of Wareham’s pedestrian railway crossing.

Dorset County Council’s Wareham member Cllr Beryl Ezzard contacted Network Rail chiefs to complain that more than 500 people a day were being forced to cross the footbridge – many of them elderly and infirm – after the gates were locked without warning last month.

Other irate residents were forced to cycle their children to school over the flyover, despite busy rush-hour traffic.

Cllr Ezzard said the community felt ‘let down’ by the unannounced closure.

Network Rail has since released a statement describing the situation that arose as ‘unacceptable’ and has apologised to anyone inconvenienced.

Cllr Ezzard led the calls for an official apology, describing the saga as ‘ineptly handled’ and causing ‘frustration and real hardship to many frail and infirm locals’.

According to the councillor, Wareham’s shopkeepers suffered a drop in trade during the period, which came to an end when the crossing reopened early this month. Network Rail said: “The situation that arose at Wareham crossing was unacceptable and we apologise to anyone who was inconvenienced during that time.

“This temporary closure was not planned and was as a direct result of problems encountered during the installation of new signalling on the route.

“The crossing is unusual in its design and operation, and the resulting complexity led to a position where, for safety reasons, we had to restrict access until we could provide staffing.”