I went to my 13th Crossrail Liaison Panel last night, an extra one thrown in
to thrash out some outstanding problems.
As such there was not a lot of new dates to announce, the main job is done and no more Crossrail related rail closures are scheduled.
It was said that the Bostall Manorway footbridge was fully opened on 4th December, ramps and all. A few trees have been planted to screen overlooked gardens.
As usual that did not meet with universal approval. The trees are not big enough, green enough, woody enough or something. There is always something to complain about.
Crossrail Panel meetings have always been contentious affairs and I have frequently felt less than sympathetic towards the critics, some are antagonistic, some are aggressive, some may be both.
I’ve never quite managed to get my head around a fear of being trapped on the platform while the booking hall is on fire. Isn’t it obvious that 200 metres of platform, arguably 400 metres, is a ready made refuge until someone turns up with a bucket of water?
if things became really crowded the track bed is available, one of the few non-technical benefits of overhead power.
A new complaint yesterday was that the hoarding around the mothballed escalator compels wheelchair users to go dangerously over the yellow line. I went to measure the narrow platform this afternoon. It is three long strides wide. It is a bit narrower alongside the stairs but wheel chairs could get by two abreast if necessary.
Then there are those who cannot get their head around the fact that many speakers kept at whisper level are quieter at longer distances than one or two speakers blaring out.
“More speakers are being installed on the Crossrail platform, why was the public not consulted?” Why should they be consulted? Speakers are part of a modern railway station, so is the asphalted platform surface, the tactile paving, the yellow line and the canopy. No consultations on them either.
It’s like the boy who kept crying wolf; when a really serious problem comes along no one takes any notice until it is too late. And now it is too late.
At the very first Panel meeting in December 2014 there was a big turnout of residents and concern was expressed by many of them that piling for the new track would disrupt as many as seven underground rivers that ran down from the hills behind Plumstead and Abbey Wood towards the Thames.
The three year old BiB report makes reference to Thames Water being consulted about the drainage problems and last night Network Rail added Greenwich Council and the Environment Agency to the equation. All of them had said that Crossrail’s plans would not cause any water problems, go ahead.
Faced with such expert advice Network Rail not unreasonably ignored the old wives’ tales and the divining rods. It is what any large corporate body would do - but they were wrong. Crossrail has created a dreadful flooding problem in the gardens behind Abbey Grove.
Network Rail is not unwilling to fix the problem, they have employed surveyors and engineers to produce a solution. It is a 350 metre pipe running beneath gardens into the station’s main drainage system; but there is a problem, well several problems really.
When some people lost the end of gardens to Crossrail many sheds had to be moved and some fell apart in the process. The new ones are sitting exactly where the drainage pipe needs to go. If they didn’t fall apart during the first move they will now.
But there is an even bigger problem. One awkward resident refuses to have a pipe buried deep in his garden, Stupid, sensible or selfish? Who knows?
With no pipe in prospect, Network Rail sunk a bore hole to see if a collection of soakaways would do the trick. That didn’t work. More a water gusher than a soakaway!
The biggest problem with the pipe solution which no one is likely to accept, is that the residents will be responsible for cleaning out the silt occasionally. What! Who is going to welcome that?
So it is stalemate unless by chance Network Rail listens to the old wives and their old men this time. They want Network Rail to remove the acoustic fencing that runs from the station to Bostall Manorway and place it closer to the railway and put in a pipe on the exposed railway land.
Not easy, the levels are all wrong for a start. The communications and power cables will all have to be moved and squashed into a smaller space, vertically stacked instead of horizontal. It’s going to cost a fortune, it will probably cause more railway closures, it probably isn’t a viable solution, but Network Rail has gone away to work out how it could be done.
I don’t see it ever being done. It would be cheaper to Compulsory Purchase the awkward home owner’s house and deposit a million pounds or whatever with Greenwich Council to bribe them into a 100 year maintenance agreement.
These Crossrail Liaison Panel meetings are going to run and run!