Last night presented a choice between a Bexley council planning meeting where the Erith Quarry development was due to be approved without any care for the loss of wildlife habitat, land contamination by everything from asbestos to, allegedly, unexploded bombs and no affordable homes, and the Crossrail Community Liaison Panel. I chose the Liaison Panel only five minutes walk from home over the webcast planning meeting. I’m reasonably confident that my brief blind description of it won’t be too far adrift, I’ve seen quite enough of Bexley’s meetings to know that the result will have been pre-arranged with a few fake objections thrown in by Conservative members who will then vote for anything likely to raise some cash.
The Liaison Panel was once again chaired by Greenwich councillor Steve Offord but compared to the previous one this was rather shambolic. An hour and a half was spent answering the questions raised at that first meeting and all we really learned was that the central handrail on the station footbridge has run into legal problems. This red tape bedevilled country apparently has regulations about the width of station stairways. Stannah, the lift company, hasn’t been able to equip their unreliable lifts with RADAR key access because they don’t know what a RADAR key is.
The shambolic nature of the first 90 minutes was not really the chairman’s fault, although his comment to the effect that no one realised just how serious a problem parking would be, was really rather startling. Surely everyone local knew what would happen as soon as it was announced that two out of three car parks would close and street parking in half a dozen or more nearby roads was to be restricted or banned?
Neither was it the fault of Ben White (Community Relations Manager for Crossrail) or Jason Hamilton (Network Rail Project Manager) who always listen sympathetically and patiently to the problems they are inevitably creating and do their utmost to solve them. The same cannot be said of the Southeastern Railway representative who fluctuated between not being able to answer the questions and intransigence. No doubt commuters will recognise the management style.
Steve Offord’s ‘mistake’, not that there was any real alternative in the circumstances, was to take umpteen questions from elderly residents who have not been paying attention. What has been going on around Abbey Wood station has been no great mystery but people who lived close by were apparently unaware that the concrete footbridge was being prepared for demolition. It was an extremely noisy operation and normal conversation in the adjacent streets was impossible, but to live 200 yards away and remain in such ignorance of what was going on that a site visit at 3 a.m. was called for seems odd to me.
There was a tendency for Crossrail to be blamed for the Cross Quarter (Sainsbury’s) development too. It has caused a bus stop to be very inconveniently closed (until 27th May) and it was said that it was forcing people to run across the road. But there is an underpass, although it would put an extra two or three hundred yards on the journey.
Cross Quarter has caused serious traffic delays and I have been caught up in them but to suggest the tail back goes up Knee Hill and along Brampton Road is surely far fetched?
Someone from Bexley’s traffic department suggested that the Wilton Road parking problems should be addressed by a separate meeting, apparently unaware that Greenwich council had taken that initiative two weeks earlier.
Following a brief visual presentation Jason Hamilton (Network Rail) explained what was to happen in the immediate future, some of which will not be news to Bonkers’ readers. Gayton Road will be disrupted imminently for 16 weeks while the utility services are rerouted well away from the new station building and according to Bexley’s traffic representative, two-way working in Wilton Road will be for one weekend only while Gayton Road is resurfaced at the end of the 16 weeks.
The old station building will be “folded in on itself” during one of the scheduled line closures “in eight or nine weeks’ time”.
After the meeting closed I asked Jason what was done during last weekend’s line closure. The answer was that 4,000 tons of ballast was delivered via the North Kent line and tipped over the new track to secure it all within about three hours. By May an eastbound route from Plumstead station will provide direct access to the newly laid Crossrail track so that materials to kit out the tunnels can be delivered by train.
Four Bexley councillors attended the meeting and Teresa Pearce put in a brief appearance before rushing off to see the Erith Quarry proposals nodded through.
More Crossrail related blogs.