ONE of Scotland's most dangerous level crossings is set to be replaced with a £12 million underpass.
Network Rail's plans for the Kirknewton level crossing, which is more than 40 years old and has been the scene of a string of serious accidents, have been approved by West Lothian Council.
Previous risk assessments carried out by Network Rail identified the crossing as the third most dangerous in Scotland.
Robert Lindsay, 77, from Livingston, died in 2004 when a train hit his car on the Edinburgh-to-Glasgow Central railway line after the vehicle became stuck on the rails.
Following the fatal accident, the Office of Rail Regulation (ORR) forced Network Rail to give a written commitment that it would upgrade the crossing or close it. West Lothian Council granted planning consent this week for the "underbridge".
Councillors claimed the crossing would otherwise have to be closed, blocking access to the village and forcing emergency services to make a four-mile detour.
West Lothian Council's development management manager, Chris Norman, said: "It is a matter of fact that there is a public safety issue at Kirknewton level crossing. According to Network Rail, the replacement crossing is the highest priority of such works in Scotland.
"The importance of the project to Network Rail and the safety of the local community cannot be overstated."
He said future transport initiatives for West Lothian included the enhancement of the Shotts railway line, including an Edinburgh-Livingston-Glasgow express. That would mean more frequent trains, resulting in delays of up to 48 minutes at the barriers, tempting drivers and pedestrians to jump the lights - with potentially disastrous consequences.
In the most recent crash, in September last year, a bus was stranded between the barriers for several hours while trains sped by inches away.
In March 2005, Kirknewton resident Louise Mitchell, 19, lost both legs and an arm when she was struck by a train travelling at 80mph. CCTV footage showed the teenager walking around the barriers as her train moved off, without realising another train was approaching from the opposite direction.
It is not yet clear whether the work, funded by Network Rail, will begin this year or next.
A Network Rail spokesman said the firm was still considering other options, such as a full-barrier CCTV level crossing,
He added: "Network Rail and the ORR are committed to either upgrading or removing this level crossing."