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Bonkers Blog April 2016

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20 April (Part 2) - Critics who go around with their eyes shut

It was a long wait for the Crossrail Liaison Panel meeting, there’s not been one since last December. Strange timing because the date of the next one has been set for 21st June.

If you carefully read everything in Network Rail’s numerous newsletters, leaflets and street notices, there will not be an enormous amount more to be picked up from their representatives at the Liaison Panel meetings.

FlyoverHowever I learned that by mid-May the Northbound flyover bus stops will be moved south to allow easy access to the station podium, as the over track floor is being called. Materials for building the station will be delivered directly to the high level site. Work on rerouting flyover traffic has already commenced. (Photo 1.)

Currently scheduled for 16th May, the northern pedestrian route will be switched from the western to the eastern side of the flyover.

Weekend line closures are set to continue through to June at least and probably until 20th August when the new Dartford bound platform is scheduled to open. In May the closures look like being Saturday only. It’s a pity that these dates are only provided briefly on screen and that Southeastern no longer bothers to publicise the long term list. I looked on Monday and there was no information on display at the station beyond next weekend.

It is probable that regular closures will extend beyond June to August but no detail was provided yesterday. After that, closures should be few and far between as all the North Kent line rearrangements will have been made by then. Presumably closures will only be needed if something is to be lifted over the track.

PilingPeople living along the eastern end of Alsike Road and in Coptefield Drive may be relieved to know that the Network Rail information letter dated 15th April which said that this week’s piling is for overhead electric supports is wrong. That may be the case closer to the station but further out it is for track bed support. The overhead electric supply line will extend only for about 250 metres beyond the station.

The piling machines will be working their way along to Bostall Manorway over coming weeks but they will only be working ‘office hours’. They aren’t much of a problem unless perhaps you are a night worker. Photo 2 was taken from my upstairs window. A thirty foot concrete lump of concrete is hammered into the ground in under a minute and with the double glazed windows shut I can barely hear it indoors.

I didn’t fully understand the answer to my question about station escalators. I believe there may be only one to each platform because there was talk of reversing them for the morning and evening rush.

The question and answer sessions at these meetings are getting ever more chaotic. The C word (chaos) slipped from the Crossrail man’s lips at one stage although he hastily withdrew it, but he was right. In my opinion the problem is in part due to the Chairman who appears to be hopelessly biased against the Crossrail/Network Rail management as one might expect from a councillor whose priority is to curry favour with electors. My last report on a Liaison Panel meeting was criticised because it was obvious that I was getting more than a little fed up with the ignorance on display. It’s the same this time only more so.

The invited public are presumably there because they are interested in the project but they appear to have very little understanding of it. One of their suggestions was that major undertakings like the current piling should not be undertaken in the summer when residents might prefer to have their windows open, because it lets in the dust and noise. So double the cost and run the first train in 2025.

The disabled ramps on the Church Manorway and Bostall Manorway footbridges are still not open thanks to objections from a couple of residents who will be overlooked. Someone said that Greenwich Council is favouring the few over the many.

One of several regular Crossrail observers I have come to recognise while taking pictures of the works lives close enough to the Bostall Manorway footbridge to have lost part of his garden to it. He insists, as do most people, that the delayed opening is totally ridiculous and the answer is net curtains.

StationThere is no doubt that closure of the northern entrance to the station is hugely inconvenient but someone who had evidently not looked at what is currently going on there suggested that a passage should be opened directly to the station footbridge. Words fail me. Photo 3 may tell you why. The pile drivers will be there shortly.

The flooding that used to afflict Abbey Terrace was discussed again. A resident said that Thames Water had told him that everything was Network Rail’s fault. The claim was accepted by the Chairman without question. Network Rail has finished work there now and it is Greenwich Council that has since done nothing to fix the road surface and the less than adequate gutters and gullies.

Bexley Council is just as bad. There was criticism of the lack of lighting on the Harrow Manorway steps to Gayton Road. I felt obliged to point out that Bexley Council never has provided lighting on those steps in the 40 years they have existed. They used to be covered moderately well by the street lights on Harrow Manorway but they failed last November and are still out.

All the lighting on the steps has been provided by Network Rail while Bexley Council grapples with a problem with their street lights, they acknowledged there were technical issues last night. Even so the Chairman didn’t seem to believe the council was at fault and Network Rail was asked to provide more lights.

There is potentially a problem at the bottom of the flyover steps because people are often hurrying from a bus into the railway station. They may not look out for the traffic coming from the right although you would think that people doing that route daily would know to be careful by now.

Gayton RoadCouncillor Val Clark who chairs Bexley’s Transport Committee thought that one of those curved mirror thingies would help. I think the word she was looking for was convex.

Obviously she doesn’t know the area well. There is no real problem seeing, the problem is people who don’t look. The view to the right is through a Heras wire fence but it is clear enough. (Photo 4.)

As Bexley Council is so keen on non-standard pedestrian crossings (The Broadway etc.) it could do worse than painting black and white stripes on the road. It might act as a warning to motorists and perhaps grab the attention of commuters with their eyes glued to their mobile phones.

A resident from Abbey Terrace was very annoyed about the public address system on Abbey Wood station. He can hear it all day long.

The new system is very sophisticated. There are 32 speakers on the London bound platform with 34 more planned for the Dartford side, placed close together so that passengers are never far from a loudspeaker which can therefore run at a lower volume. Each one of them is independently adjustable. On top of that they are sensitive to ambient noise and time of day to further mitigate any problems. Proximity sensors will be added so that the speakers will only operate when there is someone nearby.

Acoustic screenThe acoustic screen is more than ten feet high although there is at present a gap in it in exactly the wrong place while drainage culvert work is completed. Half the announcements would disappear if Southeastern ran its trains on time. “Southeastern apologises for the late running…” over and over again must get rather wearing.

The resident wanted the PA system switched off completely at the western end of the platform. The Network Rail manager said that the PA system must remain operational for safety reasons but the Chairman ruled that noise nuisance was a more important issue than passenger safety and implied that Greenwich Council would take action against Network Rail. We really could do with an impartial Chairman for the Liaison Panel.

There were lots of complaints about communications. More and more leaflets were demanded when the real problem is that no one reads them. Some of the questions I have been asked while standing around watching the work have been beyond belief. I spoke to a local man on a recent weekend who didn’t usually use the train but was annoyed to find there wasn’t one when he needed it. He had simply not noticed the work going on in Abbey Wood over the past few years. “A railway tunnel under the Thames? Amazing!”

I know of a regular commuter who was totally unaware that there were no trains at Easter despite the station being festooned with notices.

I live close enough to the work to have Crossrail leaflets posted to me and have a collection going back to 2009 which may be a little obsessive, but they have all been available on line. Anyone who wants to know what is going on can find out and it is not that difficult to understand. Many of last night’s complaining questions I could have answered myself and I have never been specially interested in railways. More leaflets won’t help especially when read by people who think the work could be confined to the winter months.

There was something on which Network Rail appeared to have dropped the ball. Sixteen months ago they were asked to do more to help keep the dust down in Wilton Road and said they would consider paying for shop window cleaners. This week came their refusal. The problem is much reduced now, perhaps that is why they waited for so long.

Crossrail’s Complaints Commissioner was at the meeting and he must have taken a dim view of the unacceptable delay and undertook to investigate.

There were times yesterday when I wanted to bang my head on the desk in despair at some of the nonsense being spoken but taken seriously by the chair.

Council staff who would find organising a party in a brewery somewhat beyond their capabilities are far too ready to blame Network Rail for everything. Bexley not only can’t fix its street lights in nearly six months, it messes up every infrastructure project it touches. The roundabout at Wickham Lane that buses couldn’t get around, the one at Ruxley which wouldn’t accommodate an articulated lorry. Bexley Lane in Crayford had to be modified within weeks of its redesign. The nearby Bourne Road junction encourages cars to mount the pavement.

In Bexleyheath the road blocks had to be replaced a year after installation, the Sidcup regeneration ran about six months late and what is in effect a large but technically simple gardening job in Lesnes Abbey is already a year late.

Wilton RoadMeanwhile, these Council ‘experts’ are telling Network Rail how things should be done. One doesn’t know whether to laugh or cry. Not once has anything gone seriously wrong with Crossrail, it’s been dirty and noisy at times and is horribly inconvenient to some people but services have been maintained according to the published plan and to its timetable. No Bexley council project has ever been able to compete with that.

It will be the time for councils to be critical when someone comes up with a better Crossrail plan than the one that has been unfolding under our noses. Until then they would do well to better attend to their own responsibilities. Flood prevention, lighting, road safety and trip hazards, Gayton Road is full of them, might be a good place to start.

Now let’s see how many complaints I get for saying that!


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