RAIL chiefs have rejected claims that plans to store containers beside a Hampshire rail route could cause a “disaster” on a neighbouring level crossing.

Proposals to redevelop a former coal yard at Junction Road, Totton , have raised new fears about the safety of the unmanned crossing – scene of two dramatic incidents last year.

As reported in the Daily Echo , an elderly pedestrian was left trapped on the high-speed line when the barriers suddenly came down.

Two motorists leapt out of their car and told the woman to flatten herself against the side of the crossing as a train hurtled through.

It happened just days after a pensioner was pulled to safety by two schoolboys after one of the barriers landed on his mobility scooter.

Now campaigners claim that tailbacks caused by lorries waiting to turn into the proposed new storage depot could leave vehicles stranded on the track.

The possibility of a train smashing into a car was raised at a meeting of New Forest District Council’s planning committee.

Councillor Chris Lagdon, pictured above, said: “It beggars belief that we’re even thinking about this. I don’t want to vote for something that has the potential to kill me.”

Members also heard from Totton resident Ian Middleton, who warned: “Sooner or later there’s going to be a disaster.”

Planning officer Chris Elliott recommended the committee approve the application, saying it would give the authority more control over the use of the land.

But he added: “It’s an awful access right next to a level crossing and what councillors have described is not beyond the realms of possibility.”

After the meeting a Network Rail spokesman said the crossing had a CCTV camera that was monitored by a signalman.

He added: “If there was a queue of vehicles across the track a train wouldn’t get anywhere near the crossing. The driver wouldn’t be given a green signal until the line was clear.”

But Councillor Ron Scrivens, who represents Totton Central, cited the two incidents that happened last year.

He said: “Several people have been trapped on the line. Plans to store containers on neighbouring land represent an extreme danger to motorists.”

Committee members heard that a “no right turn” restriction aimed to eliminate any danger by forcing lorry drivers to approach the site from the south, avoiding the crossing.

Objectors said the ban was unenforceable but the application was approved by ten votes to seven.