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Bonkers Blog December 2017

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Old Farm

10 December - Crossrail again. Do the negatives outweigh the positive?

There was more to last Thursday’s Crossrail meeting than flooded gardens and the search for a solution.

Chairman Councillor Steve Offord (Greenwich Council) began the meeting optimistically by saying it was the final Panel meeting and all that was left to be done was “to pick up on a few outstanding items”.

Raj Pathak, one of the Network Rail Project Managers, kicked off the meeting with his regular update presentation.

After proudly showing off pictures of the new station and Elizabeth Line train he thanked the residents for their “massive support and cooperation” and was rewarded with cynical laughter from the usual suspects.

He apologised for “the issues with the lifts. The two outside took longer than we expected”. He was every bit as diplomatic about “the issues” as you would expect of a senior manager and neatly avoided the S word. However word on the ground is that Stannah messed up the communications system and the emergency button didn’t call the Control Centre.

They failed to make it work and eventually reinstalled all the cabling. That’s what the orange men said and it sounds all too plausible given the lift company’s reputation in the nearby Sainsbury’s and the temporary station.

The target opening date for the Felixstowe Road lifts is 15th December. Men were working on them in the snow this morning.

Andy Bradshaw from Balfour Beatty is the man who has been trying to fix the Abbey Grove flooding problems. He had seen “the appalling conditions, we were empathetic and they merited a good deal of further consideration”.

The original railway design had considered flooding and the various records and experts were consulted. “No one expected [an Environment Agency approved plan] to make things worse.”

While discussing the various options for new drainage solutions and fence alignments Andy happened to mention that some residents had found themselves with longer gardens than before work started. “A bit of a bonus there for people.” An entirely reasonable remark for which he was condemned. It was a very cynical remark apparently. If you have ever wondered why these Crossrail reports tend to be critical of the guests you have another example.

Mr. Bradshaw was then wrongly accused of making new announcements by people who had not attended all the meetings.

Another argument was about where the water came from. The sky or an underground river? The fact that the flooding occurs only after heavy rainfall suggests the former. The fact the ground is soggy all the time suggests the latter.

No one is arguing any more that Crossrail didn’t cause the flooding problem. Network Rail has explored two options, one has proved unviable, the other is beginning to look that way and they are now castigated for taking their responsibilities very seriously. The next move is to examine a third and even more expensive solution as reported two days ago.

Such was the lack of trust of Network Rail that they were pressed to supply a copy of the Environment Agency report with the next set of minutes. They agreed to make copies available.

Let’s move on to other things.

St. Benet’s Church and the loss of their fire escape was the next subject. In essence Network Rail has paid for a solution to be designed, submitted it to the local authority and the Catholic Diocesan surveyor some months ago and heard nothing since. When agreement is reached Network Rail will foot the bill. Probably they will be criticised for that too.

The Bostal Manorway footbridge ramp was opened on 4th December. It was built two years ago but not brought into use because of objections to being overlooked by one or two residents and they were supported by Greenwich Council.

From the footbridge From the footbridgeBureaucracy being what it is it has taken most of those two years for Greenwich Council to decide that trees are the answer. Panel Members being what they are meant that their chosen solution is not good enough. There are not enough trees and they are not trees, they are saplings.

Having taken a look myself earlier today I would agree that there is currently an unacceptable overlooking problem. The small trees do not solve the problem but trees grow. What other solution is there? Block the ramps in with screens and they will be the haunt of muggers.

At the meeting there was aggressive shouting and complaints that the lights on the bridge are too bright. Outside in the real world, Facebook and the like, people are overjoyed at being able to get around so much more easily than before.

After that we returned to the long standing gripes about lighting and noise pollution from announcements. As usual there were those who cannot get their heads around the fact many loudspeakers turned down low are less likely to cause a disturbance than a few speakers turned up loud. Maybe the solution is to issue every traveller with headphones. Many many speakers turned down very very low. Network Rail has been trying to do the next best thing but few appreciate it.

There was a complaint about an emergency announcement at 3 a.m. on Wednesday morning. Mathew White the MTR (station operator) man said no tests were scheduled and at that time of the morning it could only be a fault condition which he would look into. Nobody believed him.

MTR said they observed the same announcement schedule as Southeastern did.

Network Rail said they had changed the lighting on Platforms 1 and 2. An audience member said they had not.

Western footbridgeRaj Pathak showed Panel members a picture of the inside of the western footbridge. He was criticised for his choice of glass which had been chosen to protect train drivers from glare.

The escalators are too steep claimed a know all audience member holding his hand at a 45 degree angle to prove his point. They are exactly the same as those at all other modern TfL stations said Andy Bradshaw who obviously hasn’t a clue and has stupidly commissioned a unique pair of escalators.

The Abbey Wood Traders’ Association has been assured by every Tom Dick and Mary from the two Councils that they would all be sitting on little goldmines once the new station and Crossrail opened. (As AWTA Secretary I heard them myself.)

Their Chairman said that thanks to the main exit being on the flyover with nice new footpaths that allowed Wilton Road to be bypassed, footfall was well down since 22nd October.

Bexley Council had not helped by keeping the old Gayton Road staircase open leading yet more potential customers away from the shops and holding up traffic on the flyover more than necessary.

The AWTA Chairman was assured there would eventually be a large sign to tell strangers to the area that the ugly blob at the end of Wilton Road is a railway station.

Tiffany Lynch, Bexley Council’s Head of Something or Other was “disappointed” by the lack of lifts on the opening day. Raj said there was such a long chain of contractors, sub contractors and sub sub contractors that difficulties sometimes arise. He had had long arguments with the main contractor. (It’s the S word again Tiff, Raj is too much of a gentleman to say.)

Ms. Lynch said she “felt a complete fool” for telling the Leader of Bexley Council that all was well with all the lifts when that was not the case. Maybe Tiffany would do well to look at the daily photo record in future. Oh, I nearly forgot, Bexley Council staff are forbidden to look at Bexley is Bonkers.

The lifts will be remotely monitored from the MTR Control Centre in Romford.

There was a complaint that a cherry picker was causing a dangerous situation around 9 p.m. on the 26th November when the station was closed but the concourse was accessible. I was there a few hours before that and spoke to some of the ֹ‘cherrymen’ working there. No danger then but things (and shifts) can change.

There were the usual questions about low and high level access to the station and different travel time restrictions for Freedom Pass users which were given the same old answers.

A new complaint was that the new ticket office wasn’t selling tickets and seat reservations covering other parts of the country. The MTR man said that shouldn’t be a problem and he would attend to it.

Ms. Lynch was asked about Felixstowe Road and in reply said it would be restored to two way working but be of restricted width and would remain a mess until the Autumn of next year.

And that was about it. Chairman Steve Offord may have thought it was the final Panel meeting at the outset but by the time he brought it to a close two hours later he was not so sure.


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