Pelican passage controls at Tonbridge are stolen and 'sold on eBay as doorbells'

Pelican passage controls at Tonbridge are stolen and ‘sold on eBay as doorbells’

Push-button control boxes from a pelican have been stolen on several occasions – and one theory is that they are sold on eBay as doorbells.

The Shipbourne Road level crossing, Tonbridge, has been targeted by thieves on several occasions over the past year.

The vandalized Shipbourne Road pelican crossing is now out of service

Thefts have sometimes left live wires exposed, posing a security risk.

Each time the crossing had to be temporarily closed until Kent County Council could replace the boxes.

The crossing is used by many schoolchildren crossing the busy A227 to reach nearby Hugh Christie School.

Two other pelican crossings in Tonbridge – at The Ridgeway and Hadlow College – have also been targeted but less frequently.

Cllr Mark Hood (Green) raised the issue at a meeting of the Tonbridge Joint Transportation Board on Monday.

Cllr Mark Hood says public help is needed
Cllr Mark Hood says public help is needed

He said: “There has been a sustained campaign of vandalism at the level crossing near White Cottage Road with the control panels being repeatedly removed exposing live bollards.

“It’s inconvenient for people living nearby, it’s extremely dangerous and it’s also extremely expensive. It’s cost the county £32,000 so far.”

KCC Highways Officer Toby Butler confirmed: “We have suffered repeated acts of vandalism for over a year.

“There have been occasions where the entire yellow push button box has been removed leaving the live wires exposed, so it is clearly becoming urgent for us to go there and attend.

“This passage is desperately needed for school children and others to use. It is clearly there for a very important reason.

Roads Officer Toby Butler
Roads Officer Toby Butler

“Tonbridge is the only place in the county where this kind of behavior occurs.

“We’ve replaced the push button units each time and the cost for each pair is £3,500.”

Mr Butler said the thefts had occurred so frequently that at one point KCC ran out of replacements, meaning the crossing remained out of service while spares were ordered.

Shipbourne Road crossing has bags above traffic lights after last week’s latest robbery.

Mr Butler said police were involved but offered no particular help.

The passage station without its control box
The passage station without its control box

Neither the police nor KCC have mobile CCTV cameras to deploy. The borough council is in the process of getting some.

Mr Butler said: ‘They would have to go on a lamp column which would require structural load testing before the equipment could be fixed.’

KCC had also considered installing tracking devices in the control boxes to see where they were going and had considered modifying the boxes to make them harder to steal, but both ideas were dismissed as impractical.

Mr Butler said: “We think they could be sold on eBay and used as fancy doorbells.

“When people press the button, the ‘Wait’ sign lights up.”

Each theft costs £3,500 to repair
Each theft costs £3,500 to repair

Mr Butler admitted he was puzzled as to what to do.

He said: “We may have to reduce the crossing to just a zebra crossing with no push button controls. Other than that I’m a bit lost.”

Cllr Matt Boughton, the head of Tonbridge and Malling council, was also baffled. He said: “Nothing comes to my mind that can be done that hasn’t already been investigated.”

But Cllr Hood said: “We don’t want to see the crossing downgraded – it’s being used very well.

“Until now we have been reluctant to air the matter in a public forum in case it would cause copycat activity elsewhere, but now we have to.

A Pelican Passage Control Box advertised on eBay
A Pelican Passage Control Box advertised on eBay

“I call on all residents and motorists in the area to keep their eyes peeled.

“If they see suspicious behavior at this crossing – or any crossing – report it to the police immediately.

“We have to catch the person or people doing this or we will all continue to suffer.”

When KentOnline looked on eBay there were three ‘pre-used’ Pelican Passage Control Boxes on offer, two at £45 and one at £22.

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