night saw the last of the Abbey Wood Crossrail Liaison Panel meetings,
or that was the plan anyway. There were so many unresolved issues that Chairman
Councillor Steve Offord (Greenwich) insisted that another meeting was
held soon after the station opens. It is still scheduled to accept its first
passenger on 22nd October with its official opening the following day.
The Panel meetings have nearly always generated more heat than light. Some residents have been seriously affected by garden flooding, unnecessary South Eastern loudspeaker announcements (and worried Crossrail will double them), light pollution and construction noises and rather too often no progress has been discernible from one meeting to the next.
It is easy to criticise Network Rail for a degree of arrogance, a lack of consultation and total reliance on the Act that allows them to ride rough shod over residents in order to achieve that October 22nd date, but getting to where we are now has seen some magnificent engineering feats achieved on time. Four years ago the only sign of Crossrail was them setting up camp in Felixstowe Road.
Whilst Network Rail has not been beyond reproach I have frequently found the attitude of Panel Members to be unhelpful to say the least. Everything from silly questions to outright aggression. Last night we had both.
Why would a resident want to know the specifications of the glass that fronts the new lift shafts? Does he really believe that qualified engineers would fit glass intended for a garden greenhouse? We learned that it meets all the relevant safety regulations but it is not bullet proof. Now there’s a challenge for Abbey Wood’s low life.
There has undoubtedly been terrible flooding problems for those who live along the railway’s southern border. I am inclined to think that it should have been predictible that the deep piling and raised track bed might well disrupt ancient water courses but Network Rail’s remedial plan to sink 30 metre bore holes and a network of pipes has not been well received by everyone. Some residents are hanging out for an unspecified but altogether grander scheme.
The probability is that if the scheme on offer is not eagerly grabbed with both hands nothing will ever be done. In less than a year’s time Network Rail will be gone and half forgotten.
The flood protesters lost sight of reality when they insisted several times that Network Rail was entirely responsible for the flooding at the end of Wilton Road. It never happened until Network Rail dumped hardcore over a gully or two they said. It had not flooded since 1953 chipped in the Chairman.
Dumping hardcore over a drain could not have helped the situation but it was an engineering necessity. Having a gully sucker on standby was probably the most cost effective precautionary measure but claiming that the station entrance had never flooded before was the sheerest nonsense.
All of the photos below pre-date Crossrail and in 2009 Bexley Council sought my assistance to identify local areas subject to frequent flooding. These were among the photos I sent them. Needless to say Bexley Council did nothing.
The noise protesters may have been on stronger ground. South Eastern quite obviously make unnecessary announcements and in my opinion Network Rail did themselves no favours at all when their presentation referred to dropping the volume of announcements by 35% after 7 p.m.
What does that mean? Decibels are an awkward logarithmic measure which is far from being intuitive. Unless the level is halved the difference is unlikely to be noticed.
Residents were critical of South Eastern and claimed that the company had never done any research into the effectiveness of announcements. If so that is a damning indictment of their competence.
Their suggestion that announcements be switched off for two months and South Eastern monitor the number of complaints had been rejected out of hand. TfL was said to be just as bad. “You are not part of the consultation process, go away.”
Network Rail’s arrogance also occasionally shone through. They necessarily destroyed one man’s garden shed and offered to replace it. The best quote he could find was £2,500 but Network Rail would pay only £1,000 on the grounds that his old shed was past its best. This is reminiscent of them removing the fences behind Coptefield Drive and refusing to replace them at all on the grounds that the fence was 30 years old and in need of replacement anyway. True but the underlying attitude is unacceptable. Residents are still in full view of trains passing 20 feet from their windows.
There was better news on the light pollution from the Bostall Manorway footbridge. The lamps had been dimmed but it would appear that no one had noticed. Not so good is that the ramps which were forecast to open in August will not now do so until January 2018 or possibly later and that the bridge, a well used school route, is, according to residents’ reports, to be closed for a whole month in term time. No reason for that was given.
The Crossrail Complaints Commissioner appeared to be less than happy with the situation in Abbey Wood. He said he had attended 155 such meetings across London and the Abbey Wood team had “fallen behind other areas and [the railway] could have been delivered with a lot more finessing”.
Despite the harranguing and accusations of “land grabbing” some useful facts emerged.
• The overhead power cables will go live on 1st October and the first Crossrail train is likely to pull into Abbey Wood on 31st October.
• Monday to Friday it will be stored overnight alongside the Abbey Wood platform.
• During the day it will be used for system testing and make its way through the tunnels towards Liverpool Street.
• The number of off-peak trains will be increased from eight to ten per hour and four more trains have been ordered to sustain that level of service. The peak hour service will remain at twelve, to Paddington only (28 minutes) for the first year of operation.
• The North Kent line will be closed on 17th September and 15th October in order to complete the station building. It will also be closed for the weekends of 25th/26th November and 2nd/3rd December to remove the redundant footbridge from the temporary station.
I would have liked to ask who it was who chose the horrible Brindle cladding bricks instead of something that might have brightened up the area but judged that there had been quite enough silly questions already.