Yet another meeting yesterday evening, this time it was the Crossrail Liaison
Panel which often gets bogged down in negativity such as overcrowded buses and
the lack of street lighting which is only very remotely relevant to the project
which is going to put Abbey Wood on the map.
Fortunately the Chairman kept a firm grip on proceedings and yesterday’s meeting proved to be one of the most interesting so far.
Once again Greenwich Council was better represented than Bexley. Councillor Esther Amaning (Labour, Lesnes Abbey) had taken the trouble to attend but the only other Bexley presence was Tiffany Lynch who is the Council’s transport planner.
The Network Rail people, armed to the teeth with their Crossrail Act, have an unfortunate tendency to believe they can do what they like, which they can. The residents of Mottisfont Road have been plagued for months by a moving road block which prevents easy vehicle access to their homes. They have to guess which circuitous route might be open. At the last meeting they had asked for the road to be kept open when possible and for traffic light control when work was going on.
They have not seen any improvement and Network Rail’s answer is that it is easier for them to keep their road permanently shut. The Chairman and Councillor for Greenwich’s Abbey Wood ward was not best pleased with what looked like arrogance.
The previous meeting had heard a long complaint from a resident of Abbey Terrace which is close to the western end of the new station platform. The platform speakers are close spaced so that none need to be turned up too loud and they adjust themselves to be 10dB above ambient sound level. Output has been set at the lowest allowed by Network Rail’s own rule book. The Abbey Terrace resident was not present but in his written statement there was a reference to ‘airport style bing bongs’. I must confess I have never noticed them. What must be a nuisance is the constant apologies for late running and cancelled trains and the warning that London Bridge will not be served until 2018.
The situation isn't helped by the fact that there is a gap in the acoustic screen (Photo 1) in just the wrong place but neither is it helpful to claim it is only six feet high when clearly it is much taller than that. It suggests that critics may be inclined to exaggerate. However Network Rail has apparently not conducted sound tests at the complainants home which one would have thought they would be keen to do.
There was scepticism that more speakers leads to a lower overall sound level though it seems obvious enough to me. Taken to extremes Network Rail could get the sound levels down to near zero by installing hundreds of tiny speakers or headphone jacks. Everyone seems to wear headphones these days. Only joking - I think.
However it seems to be inescapable that trains are making far more noise on the new track than they did on the old.
Short of seeking a noise abatement notice from a court there is little that can be done to further reduce the annoyance factor if the volume is already turned down to the minimum recommended level. Chairman Steve Offord did not appear to be very optimistic that it could be done.
Slow progress is being made on the flooding problem in Abbey Grove. The surveying will continue until the end of the year but early indications are that it will confirm that Crossrail work has caused it. A solution will be implemented early next year but ten of the 50 houses have not yet responded to the surveyor’s requests for access.
The main presentation was by Raj Pathak who is a Project Manager for Network Rail. I was rather embarrassed to realise that the man in the smart suit was the same Raj who I have spoken to in the street hidden under a hard hat and dressed like he was auditioning for a Tango advertisement. He must have thought I was even odder than I am.
Raj assured everyone that things were running on time and showed some pictures which were much the same as those that have been published daily on BiB. Exactly two weeks ago the first roof beam went up on the station building and now the wooden support for the zinc roof is about 80% completed.
Crossrail track will start to go down next month and be completed by February. The sidings at Plumstead will be for storing maintenance trains, passenger stock will be parked on the other side of London.
Raj was taken to task by some residents because his boss said at April’s meeting that there would be very few line closures after 22nd August when the new Platform 2 was brought into service. Although that was my interpretation too it was not what was said in June.
Peter Hume (NR Project Manager) said that there would be plentiful closures until the new platform was opened in August and they would extend beyond that. It was only after that further extension that closures would become few and far between. It looks as though optimistic residents, including me, glossed over the detail of what Peter said. My own report of that meeting provides the facts but maybe not clearly enough.
Raj was left to defend his boss from promises he appears not to have made. My notes (and the blog) say one thing but somehow many memories, including mine, were left with something different.
There will be many more line closures before we are out of the woods because the new North Kent line will be used for the delivery of bulk materials for the Crossrail track. As a result there will be no train service at Abbey Wood on
10th, 11th, 17th, 18th and 24th September
1st, 2nd, 8th, 9th, 16th, 23rd, 29th and 30th October
5th, 6th, 12th, 13th, 19th November
3rd and 4th December
5th February 2017.
Perhaps it would have been simpler to say there will be a train service on Sunday 25th September and Saturdays 15th and 22nd October. On other days there will be a disabled inaccessible bus. Southeastern gave their excuses for that. There are so many rail disruptions at the weekend there simply aren’t enough buses available for hire.
Raj confirmed that there will definitely be a canopy on the Crossrail platform, the original plan and recent rumours said there would not be. There were complaints that he was not cleaning the footbridges at Church and Bostall Manorways as promised but there is ample evidence at Harrow Manorway that its steps are cleaned regularly by Network Rail after years of neglect by the Council which owns them. Maybe Greenwich people are even worse litterers than those in Bexley.
I don’t make a habit of asking questions at Panel meetings because they would usually be technical and probably of limited interest, however yesterday I took the opportunity of asking if Bexley Council Leader Teresa O’Neill’s frequent bragging that she is on the brink of securing a Crossrail extension to Ebbsfleet is something out of Cloud Cuckoo Land. Network Rail has, as I put it, dumped half a million tonnes of concrete where the extended track would have to go. Remove that and the brand new station would collapse and the alternative of reconfiguring Crossrail trains to third rail traction while stopped at Abbey Wood and taking it down the maintenance track to the North Kent line was just a waste of time. Quicker to take the escalators to the other platform.
I had hoped to get a reaction from the Crossrail people but most of it came from Tiffany Lynch, Bexley’s Transport expert.
At the moment it is all talk with bureaucrats from various local authorities, TfL etc. cobbling together a business case for the extension. That, I would have thought, would not be very difficult but what about the new station having to be demolished? I had to guess the answer to that from the pained expressions on Crossrail and Network Rail faces.
Tiffany said she thought it might happen by the late 2020s. The Chairman thought the late 2220s might be more likely.
Taking into account things heard at the meeting, after the meeting and before it, it is possible to deduce that the reason that the original plan to run Crossrail to Ebbsfleet was abandoned is because of Bexley Council’s well known past opposition to infrastructure improvements. They successfully lobbied to have Boris Johnson kill off Ken Livingstone’s bridge and they did nothing to push for a new railway line across the borough.
It was pleasing to note that Tiffany Lynch, unlike the Conservative Councillors she serves, knew the difference between the Livingstone bridge and the three lane motorway thrown out by the Inspector. Bexley Council is conflating the two to mask their many transport policy errors.
If it wasn’t for the efforts of Erith & Thamesmead MP Teresa Pearce we might not have the Abbey Wood branch at all. The other Teresa is nothing but a waste of a vast amount of space. The mistakes the Conservatives made when they took control of the Council in 2006 are really coming home to roost now.
On a purely selfish note, with no Ebbsfleet extension, I don’t have to look at overhead electric power lines from the front of my house. The extra noise from the realigned North Kent line is bad enough. More on that another day.
A rushed report missing out much detail but I have to drive through Blackwall again. Wish me luck and curse the one woman road block which is Teresa O’Neill.