Over the past fifteen months, the period during which
Abbey Wood’s new station has taken real shape,
I have gradually come to dislike it and what it is doing to the area where I have
lived for 31 years.
Except when viewed from the flyover the station is ugly, I have heard the station staff refer to it as “the prison”, not a reflection on what it is like to work there but what it looks like from the north and the south.
The wooden cladding is a lot less stylish than was shown on the artists’ impressions and we have lost the wide open concourse; an anti-terrorist measure presumably, but it does nothing for the aesthetics.
In only nine month’s time, Balfour Beatty strikes permitting, we are going to have a train into the centre of London every five minutes which has to be good, at least when viewed in isolation. I may use it occasionally when I go to Wiltshire. I have become fed up with having to allow an hour and a half to get to Paddington and queue for a ticket.
The fact that the value of my house has increased by 50% over the past couple of years after stagnating for most of the millennium is good only because it will allow me to sell up and get out of Bexley. It will do nothing to help young people on to the housing ladder. I fail to see any more Crossrail positives that benefit long term residents.
Far from Crossrail being, according to both Councils, “a goldmine” for local businesses, it simply isn’t. Local shops which suffered dreadfully (around five closed down in Felixstowe Road) while Crossrail works were in progress are now suffering even more. Wilton Road has become a dead zone since commuters found more convenient routes out of the station. One shop has closed, two are for sale and a fourth may change hands, possibly taken over by a chain.
Traffic congestion can only become worse. There will be very little space for passengers to be dropped off and collected by car and the Felixstowe Road car park closed in 2013 is earmarked for alternative uses.
Bexley Council has twice announced at public meetings that it expects to quadruple the size of its Controlled Parking Zone in the year following the introduction of Crossrail services. I will have yellow lines in front of my house, which may not be an entirely bad thing for me, but then my drive is big enough to take four cars easily.
Waiting times near the station will be reduced from an hour to 30 or even 20 minutes according to Council informers.
There will be more buses on the narrowed flyover and the new 301 will run to Bexleyheath from 8th December. However it will not provide the fast and direct service which Abbey Wood has lacked for ever. It will double back on itself at the foot of Knee Hill and take a meandering route along Abbey Road, New Road and Woolwich Road wasting five minutes in the process. Almost needless to say, all Bexley Council’s fault.
The area will change beyond all recognition, inexpensive family homes swapped for flats marketed primarily in Hong Kong.
If you are one of those newcomers rushing into London every day Crossrail will undoubtedly be a good thing but established residents will see that and balance it against the negatives.
A few people lost their homes completely and some had their gardens cut down to about six feet. (Chantry Close.)
Loads had their gardens trimmed, lost their sheds and in some cases all their privacy. You cannot make an omelette without smashing a few eggs obviously and that may well be regarded as unfortunate but absolutely necessary but that isn't true for everything.
I attended every single one of the Crossrail Abbey Wood Liaison Panel meetings and my file of old Agendas, Minutes and Moving Ahead leaflets is more than two inches thick.
At the first of those meetings in December 2014 a lot of residents, all elderly ones it has to be said, but they are the only people who were taking an interest at the time, said that if Network Rail wasn’t careful they would disturb a lot of old water courses and cause the area to flood. “Oh no it wouldn’t” said Network Rail; Greenwich Council and the Environment Agency has said everything will be fine.
And who was right?
The old timers who had lived here all their lives of course.
The scene shown above has been pretty much a constant feature for dozens of residents over the past twelve months and more. Cellars flooded, mould up walls, bad smells and children confined indoors.
It wouldn’t be true to say that officialdom is not concerned about it at all, various remedies have been dreamed up and in some cases abandoned as ineffective or perhaps too expensive.
The most effective might be a huge underground pipe to feed into the station drainage system which is pretty extensive but to do that properly means moving the railway fence, rearranging a whole load of electrical cables and making room for a pipe next to the track. Not cheap!
Many of the residents are so desperate to see dry land again that they are willing to see their gardens dug up, their replacement sheds destroyed and a pipe installed beneath their own land, but who will pay to fix it when it silts up in 20 years time? Both Greenwich Council and Network Rail are saying “not us”.
So it’s a disgraceful impasse and dozens of householders along a 350 metre stretch of road are suffering intolerably while bureaucrats squabble and nothing tangible gets done.