An 80-year-old Parkstone woman has said she is fearful to go across Poole High Street's level crossing after being struck by the closing barriers twice.

Letitia Lawrence told the Echo on both occasions the gates had opened to let waiting pedestrians across - then closed again within moments - with people still jamming the crossing.

The first time the barrier came down against her arm, the second time against her shoulder - each time she narrowly avoided a serious blow.

Letitia told the Echo she had been halfway across when the warning sounded – and the barriers closed “almost instantaneously.” On both occasions it was around 11am.

She said: “On Friday it was so crowded you could hardly move. There was a woman behind me with a pram and young children shouting ‘quick, quick’. It was awful – you couldn’t help but panic. I’ve seen so many near misses since they altered those gates. I thought they were upgrading them, not downgrading. It’s quite dangerous. It makes me think twice before going shopping down there. A lot of people of all ages have said to me it makes them nervous going across there.”

Letitia, who has lived in Poole for 50 years, said she had never experienced such a problem with the gates before.

A spokesman for Network Rail said they had a “tough job balancing safety with the needs of the many people who use the High Street”, adding: “In this instance, the signaller monitoring the crossing has to judge whether there is a long enough gap between trains to lift the barriers and reduce some of the queues that will have formed on the street before the next train arrives.

"It is not an exact science and sometimes the barriers will only be up for a short time. It is a difficult balance and we cannot always wait for the crossing to be completely free from people before triggering the warning sequence - the High Street is very busy.

"We continue to encourage people to pay attention to the lights and warning sounds and while we appreciate it is frustrating to have to wait, it is better to be safe."

Network Rail upgraded the signalling and equipment at the crossing in February and March this year. Borough of Poole is currently carrying out a number of surveys to assess barrier downtime following complaints that the barriers were now closing earlier for longer.