A month ago I was pleased to receive an unexpected email from Crossrail
addressed to their ‘Stakeholders Abbey Wood’, inviting me to a meeting at their
Felixstowe Road offices on 3rd December. Naturally I jumped at the chance and
hoped that the term Abbey Wood Stakeholders would include people from Bexley council.
I learned from Teresa Pearce MP that they had been invited but she would be unable to attend because of parliamentary commitments. A member of the Treasury Select Committee obviously can’t ask for the day off on the Chancellor’s Autumn Statement day. From that point of view the meeting was a disappointment; all the Abbey Wood (Greenwich side) councillors were there and some from Plumstead but there was an absolutely zero turn out by Bexley councillors (30 invited according to my information). Similarly, Greenwich council had sent along some of their officers but no one from Bexley council could be bothered.
There was a certain amount of criticism about Bexley’s lack of interest from residents and traders and rather more afterwards. I was encouraged by one less than happy local trader to send an appropriate text to a Bexley councillor but I received no reply. Still haven’t. As chairman Steve Offord (Greenwich Labour councillor for Abbey Wood) said during the meeting, “Bexley council is not very interested in Abbey Wood.”
My interest was mainly in what might be termed the project management and timetable aspects of the scheme (Network Rail promised to send me a track diagram) but I was outnumbered by those concerned about the impact on travellers and traders, which is to be expected. One trader told me after the meeting that if things do not improve there could be no businesses left in Wilton Road by the time Crossrail opens in four years time.
The main speakers were Mathew White from Crossrail and Jason Hamilton from Network Rail. Crossrail has contracted Network Rail to manage the project east of the Plumstead tunnel portal and Balfour Beatty is their main contractor. More than 200 of their workers live in Greenwich or Bexley.
Mathew said that Abbey Wood was considered by Crossrail to be their flagship station and nowhere on the entire line would benefit more than Abbey Wood in terms of improved journey times and property values. At long last Abbey Wood would be put on the London Transport map.
Jason Hamilton, Network Rail Project Manager, was given a harder time by the audience but was very keen to accommodate any concerns. His current major task is to complete the line west of Church Manorway by next May so that it can be handed over to Crossrail and the tunnel can begin to be fitted out. By August he aims to have the new North Kent down line completed. The more immediate job is to realign the underground services in Gayton and Felixstowe Roads and demolish the old station so that a start can be made on the new station and trackbed.
It was confirmed that the platform canopies will be extended from the main station entrance to the mid-platform footbridge. They are not yet shown on any published plan.
There were a lot of questions about the interim station lifts which are widely seen as inadequate. Jason explained that there was no room to install larger lifts because the space required for subterranean motor rooms would have impacted on the land required for the adjacent new station work.
The initial unexpected problem with the lifts was twofold. Rainwater leaked in and the electrical contact breakers blew under load. Both issues are now fixed and Stannah are under contract to have an engineer on site within 30 minutes of a failure day or night.
The lifts are staff activated only because of a record of vandalism at Abbey Wood. Southeastern who operate the interim station has been funded for a lift attendant between first and last train. Several people claimed there was never anyone there but that has not been my experience. Yesterday at four o’clock a young fellow in an orange suit was running around frantically trying to keep up with a queue of young mums with pushchairs.
Two people complained of missing three trains due to the lifts being so slow which at the worst (off peak) time would require only a 15 minute delay. From observation that would appear not to be impossible.
Something I can identify with is being caught in a rush on the wide and steep stairs. Jason Hamilton said he would look into the possibility of a central handrail and RADAR key operation of the lifts.
Concern was expressed about ground water and the seven “rivers” said to flow under the track between Abbey Wood and Plumstead. I suspect the rivers are culverted streams and it was acknowledged that there had been flooding problems. However Thames Water had been brought in and a solution to it implemented.
The vicar from a Thamesmead church said there were 45,000 people living on the Abbey Wood estate and only two roads leading into it. Restricting Harrow Manorway with roundabouts and pedestrian crossings was not a good idea. Another resident threw a spanner into the works by saying he had received a letter from Greenwich council to say that Eynsham Drive was to be closed completely. No one from Greenwich council knew anything about that.
An as yet unsolved problem is what will happen when the Felixstowe Road entrance to the station has to be closed in 2016. Every resident north of the railway line will be forced to walk up the flyover, across the dual carriageway and down the steps on the east side. A shuttle bus has not been ruled out.
A Wilton Road trader said that businesses need 22 vehicles (or maybe it was 24) to keep their operations going and Bexley council had stolen a lot of their parking spaces and Crossrail makes things worse by allowing their staff to park in the road and large vehicles turn up according to a Crossrail schedule only to find it deferred for two hours. Jason Hamilton said he would take both those concerns on board.
Bexley council has already been asked by a local councillor at a public meeting to alleviate the parking problem but so far has done exactly what you might expect. Nothing.
Everyone agreed (chairman, rail staff, traders) that Bexley’s imposition of more double yellow lines in Wilton and Gayton Road was excessive. Parking needs to be restricted when Crossrail are expecting significant deliveries but not 24/7 which is what we get with Mike Frizoni in charge of Bexley’S parking gestapo. Only this week he has put more double yellows into Alsike Road, a favourite parking spot for Abbey Wood commuters.
The Abbey Wood Liaison Panel is going to meet quarterly. Last night the rail staff and chairman Steve Offord created a very useful forum for interested parties. A pity that no one from Bexley council is interested.
The condemned house in Florence Road was finally flattened and taken away yesterday.
Index to past Crossrail blogs.