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Bonkers Blog June 2016

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23 June (Part 5) - Crossrail. No longer a good news story

Crossrail is no longer a good news story. That is what a Greenwich Councillor said at last Tuesday’s Crossrail Liaison Panel meeting and there is more than just a hint of truth about it. The level of discontent with the disruption caused by the massive construction project is not difficult to detect. Long diversions, traffic congestion, difficult station access, severely reduced train service and occasional noise is taking its toll but how it can be avoided is hard to see. However one thoughtful resident had come up with the perfect remedy.

The usual suspect said that dust continues to be a problem - what? In this weather! - and Greenwich Council should take action under Health and Safety regulations to put a stop to it. They have the power, he said, to bring the whole Crossrail project to a halt. Cancel the blooming thing entirely. The Chairman wisely moved on rapidly.

It is becoming clear that Network Rail which is managing the above ground work from Plumstead to Abbey Wood and beyond is acquiring a reputation for not delivering on its promises. They seemed quite enthusiastic about ensuring that shop windows adjacent to the building site were kept clean. It wouldn’t have cost much but it has taken them more than a year to decide they aren’t going to help. The need is a lot less now than during the demolition stage but the delays and failure to deliver will have cost quite a lot in terms of goodwill - about which they were accused of not caring very much at all.

Several residents were very agitated about drainage problems allegedly caused by Crossrail and showed photographs of gardens totally flooded by up to two feet of water that had been there for several months and was now a breeding ground for mosquitos. The smell was said to be nasty to say the least and all the plants have died.

Several meetings ago Network Rail described how they were tackling track drainage problems. There were something like nine small streams coming down from the Bostall Heath hills towards the Thames, some in culverts, others in little more than ditches and the railway line had to be protected from them.

Piling PilingIn recent months sheet piling along both sides of the track has been rammed into the ground, some of it is very long and goes very deep. To most people it would look likely that it will have disrupted ground water flow.

The big problem is that Network Rail would appear to be bound by red tape and lengthy procedures and arguments over which public authority is responsible for the problem. They happily talk of site meetings, surveys and developing solutions, weeks if not months into the future. Meanwhile houses in Abbey Grove and Abbey Terrace have water lapping their doorsteps, filing their cellars and causing damp to creep up their walls.

The Greenwich Councillor did not totally discount the possibility that all the sink holes that have opened up in Plumstead are Crossrail related.

The same red tape is evident when solving even the most trivial of problems. At the last meeting Network Rail undertook to provide some sort of display board at Abbey Wood station to keep travellers better informed of services in the short and medium term. This is going ahead but apparently requires another two months of “signing off”. No one was impressed, least of all the Chairman who pushed for the display board to be in place within a month.

We were treated to the usual update on overall progress and it has undoubtedly been impressive over the last few months. However what should have been a Good News story turned out to be, from a traveller’s point of view, bad.

More than once, residents have been assured at Panel meetings that once the new Dartford bound platform is brought into service on 20th August, station closures will be few and far between. That promise is now revealed to be untrue. The North Kent line will be closed on 20th, 21st, 28th and 29th August (Bank Holiday). 3rd, 10th, 11th, 17th, 18th and 24th September and through October too. Dates to be announced. July will also be a dead loss with no weekend service except on Saturday 16th - but check, my shorthand notes may not be the best.

The reason is that the new Dartford track will be used to deliver materials for laying the new Crossrail track. Totally understandable but not what has been said throughout this year so far.

There was criticism of the Replacement Bus Service too. The Southeastern representative seemed to be unaware that many of the vehicles provided are coaches, not buses, and they have no disabled access. It was suggested that coaches were only used occasionally but I have seen them over several weekends and frequently. It was said that the buses run at the same frequency as the trains they replace. Few will believe that and a coach has far less capacity than a train.

I still don’t understand Bexley Council’s lack of interest in their flyover. They insisted that Network Rail light it when Bexley has never before been bothered about it and now they are concerned that the stairs are dirty. Network Rail was asked to get them cleaned and they have agreed. While they are about it, maybe they will fix Bexley’s blocked drains on the stairway too.


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