The replacement of manual level crossings on vital roads into two Kent villages could be completed by Christmas, Network Rail has said.
The operator hopes electronic gates can be installed on the line just outside Wye station, near Ashford, and further up the line at Chartham, near Canterbury, by the end of the year if road closures can be put in place.
Plans for the automation of the Wye crossing, which is currently operated by a railway worker, were explained to villagers at an information session at Churchfield Green on Saturday, September 3.
Cllr Noel Ovenden, chairman of Wye with Hinxhill Parish Council, said: “The parish council recognises that there are differences of opinion in the community.
“The information session was an opportunity for residents to share these with Network Rail and Kent County Council.”
The work in Wye will require a series of overnight road closures, which will disrupt traffic in and out of the village.
A spokesman for the track operator said: “Upgrading Wye and Chartham road crossings is absolutely vital to providing a safer and more reliable railway for our passengers and crossing users.
“Sending our people out into the road to pull gates closed against traffic, with all the risk that brings with it, is not a suitable way to be running a railway in 2022.
“Putting electronic gates in place, with proper warning lights and CCTV, is a far better solution, and also has the advantage of readily available spare parts so any problems can be fixed quickly.
“Our plans are to have both crossings converted by Christmas this year, however in Wye that depends on being able to close the crossing on certain dates to do the work, as we can’t have the road or railway open to do that work.
“We’re consulting with businesses and neighbours in the village to understand what the best option is for them.
“That said, should we not be able to achieve that aim, it could be over a year before we’re able to finish the job so we are determined to find a way to complete the work.”
Network Rail was previously fined £200,000 over safety failures which led to an employee suffering serious injuries at a manual level crossing in East Farleigh, near Maidstone.
Signaller Doug Caddell was knocked unconscious and suffered a broken neck when a car struck the gate he was in the process of closing.