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Bonkers Blog December 2015

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16 December - Crossrail disruption. It’s about to get far worse

Every day I walk a circular route to Abbey Wood station, through it and out the other side and home again via Harrow Manor Way picking up various snippets of information from orange suited gentlemen some of whom are extremely useful sources of information. As such I went to the quarterly Crossrail Liaison Panel meeting last night not expecting to learn a great deal. I was very wrong.

The orange clad gossip that the last utility diversion, gas, was completed on Monday and that any day now the piling rigs on the southern side of the tracks will be moved to the northern side was confirmed. However there was lots more interesting news than just that, some surprising, some a little disappointing.

Among the latter - for passengers as opposed to sightseers like me - is that after the six consecutive weekends of line closures in the new year, there will be a short break and it will start all over again. There was a promise that the dates would be made available further in advance than is usually the case. There wasn’t time to grab them from the briefly displayed slide.
Crossrail Liaison

The meeting broke up at 8 p.m.

The good news is that the Bostall Manorway footbridge installed in August may be brought into use in mid-January. The lack of a bridge has been causing massive disruption to children attending school (and those who would like to have photographed the station track installation from a different angle) but Network Rail has submitted a plan to Greenwich council aimed at overcoming a resident’s objection. Why one resident is allowed to disrupt life for thousands is beyond me, perhaps democracy has fled from Greenwich as it has in Bexley. It is possible, likely even, that the disabled ramp will remain closed for longer. The disabled’s additional problems don’t seem to matter to Greenwich council.

The possibly good news is that an independent assessor is working towards a solution for the St. Benet’s church hall fire escape problem.

The not good news at all is that the Felixstowe Road entrance to Abbey Wood station will be closed by March and remain shut until the Crossrail station opens at the end of 2017. There will be massive disruption as the detour involves three flights of stairs and crossing Wilton Road, Gayton Road and Harrow Manorway. The pedestrian crossing already causes traffic tail backs, up Knee Hill occasionally, and with far more people using the crossing, regular gridlock is not impossible. Lift use will increase too.

For anyone unable to use the stairs a half mile detour is inevitable. All the talk of mitigation like shuttle buses aired at a previous meetings has been forgotten. It has become a common theme of the Liaison Panel meetings that promises made at one meeting are not fulfilled at the next.

As one of the attendees remarked, the locals are getting fed up with it and west London residents would not be treated this way. It may not be true but there are signs of growing discontent.

I was taking bets that the promise to provide cut away diagrams of the new station promised at the last meeting would not show up at this one, but again I was wrong.

They revealed two large external lifts on each side of the station which will operate 24 hours a day as part of the regular pedestrian route across the railway line. It will be controlled from the Crossrail HQ in Romford and under CCTV surveillance. Hopefully it can be locked shut from there to imprison vandals until the police arrive.

Unfortunately there is room for only one lift down to each platform but Network Rail's Peter Hume said the “middle footbridge” would be “upgraded with escalators”. That was a big rabbit out of his hat.

Whilst the Crossrail project is undeniably causing problems I always feel that some of the meeting attendees are Professional Moaners. The single lift to each platform was seen as a fire hazard to some. One lift seems to be the norm on the DLR and recently refurbished District Line stations that I use every week or so. I would have thought that a third of a mile of platform would be more than enough refuge for anyone trapped there by a fire in the booking hall and those on the upper level have the gaping hole which is the exit on to Harrow Manorway.

LiftThe small Stannah lifts that serve the temporary station are clearly not fit for purpose. One was out of order for four weeks recently when a motor burned out. Crossrail has insisted that Stannah keeps a full set of spare parts at Stannah’s Dartford depot.

There were complaints about noise and vibration from those who live close to the new London bound track. I must declare an interest. I live as close to that track as the principal complainant does but half a mile from the station. The disadvantage for me is that trains are going faster than at the station (more noise and vibration) but the subsoil is firmer than the rice pudding that supports the track near the station. Perhaps most important of all, I do not suffer the 16 apology announcements an hour that come over Southeastern’s public address system.

FenceIt was claimed that the acoustic barrier has been downgraded from a concrete wall to a three metre high barrier mostly of wood. I am going to get similar protection and even without it I have to specially listen out to hear a train and vibration is apparent only when heavily laden freight trains pass by at speed. I may even miss seeing them, it’s a more reliable indicator that trains are running than Southeastern’s website.

Maybe vibration will be different where the subsoil is rice pudding but on the other hand the track at the station sits in a very substantial reinforced concrete trough.

Another complaint was drainage.

Two adjoining houses were demolished at the end of Abbey Terrace to make room for the railway and with them the road outside disappeared. It is now under track ballast and its two rain water gullies were lost too. Rain has nowhere to go other than lap residents’ doorsteps. Isn’t that for Greenwich council to sort out? They have known about Crossrail for a very long time and it is their road.

The council should have examined the effect on their road drainage system more closely and redesigned it. The Greenwich councillor who chairs the meeting didn’t seem to think so. Obviously he has a vested interest in supporting residents against Crossrail. Peter Hume and Co. will eventually go away but voters stay.

Nigel Threadgold, Bexley’s Highways Manager, gave a brief presentation on the £6 million plans for Harrow Manorway and the area around the three station entrances. Everything looked pretty enough with the trees and York stone and granite but one of the Professional Moaners said that six different colours of granite paving was bad for the disabled. I am less than enthusiastic about the practical effects. The Crossrail bosses said they are expecting 20,000 passengers in the morning rush.

Harrow Manorway is (was?) a four lane viaduct without footpaths built by Bexley council in 1975. Crossrail is being built to last 150 years but I doubt that sort of lifespan was in mind when the concrete viaduct was designed, yet it is to become an integral part of the station.

Four lanes will never be seen again. On the station side (west) bus stops will be provided both before and after the station entrance which will be kept clear. A raised footpath with protective barrier will be provided on both sides of the viaduct and on both northern and southern approaches. The green paint which Bexley council calls a cycle track will be extended from outside Sainsbury’s where it currently terminates, across the flyover to the Knee Hill roundabout. There will not be much room left for motor vehicles. Knee Hill is going to see lots more tail backs.

There will be little change to the bus stops on the eastern side of the viaduct but all the plans are in an early stage of development and may undergo further revision.

Greenwich council’s representative referred to the £300,000 scheme to improve the trading facilities in Wilton Road but also gave the first news of a scheme called the HILLS Project which will involve using an apprentice training budget to refurbish the Wilton Road public realm and footpaths. There were few details but it all sounded like a brilliant idea to be welcomed. Greenwich council will generously look after the Bexley side of the road too.

The next Liaison Panel meeting was fixed for 19th April 2016. Quarterly meetings have apparently drifted to four month intervals.


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