THE campaign to save Frinton’s iconic railway gates has suffered a major blow.

The Office of Rail Regulation has backed Network Rail’s plan to replace the historic gates with a barrier system operated via CCTV from Colchester - part of a multimillion pound scheme on the Colchester to Walton line.

Martin Spencer, of the Office of Rail Regulation, said the authority - responsible for safety regulation on Britain's railways – has recommended the plan for approval. The final decision will be made by the Department for Transport.

“We have gone out for consultation and have made the recommendation to change the gate to the CCTV monitored barriers instead,” he said.

“We will make that recommendation to the Secretary of State for transport, who will have the final decision on this.

“We expect to submit our plans to the Department for Transport in the next couple of weeks.”

Frinton Gates Preservation Society chairman David Foster said the fight to save the landmark will continue.

“We are going to fight our corner for what we believe in,” he said.

“The scheme is not appropriate in our view as it is not as safe as the current set-up.

“The Level Crossing Order will be signed using delegated powers and all they can do is look at the recommendation, but we believe that recommendation is flawed.

“The battle is not over yet – they could still change their view.”

A spokesperson for Network Rail said the existing arrangements in Frinton are no longer suitable to deal with the current volume of road and rail traffic.

“The proposed new crossing is accepted as the safest form of modern level crossing in the UK and will reduce risks to all crossing users, particularly those within the local community who have disabilities,” he said.

“This scheme has now been approved by Essex County Council, the Railway Inspectorate and the Office of Rail Regulation.

“Network Rail has long maintained that the proposed automated crossing at Frinton is the best solution for pedestrians, road users and rail passengers and we are confident that the Secretary of State will give the project the go-ahead shortly.”