Email to the Network Rail CEO

Having received no response to my calls about the unsafe roadworks I wrote the following email to  David Higgins (CEO of Network Rail), Rupal Patel (Head of Community Relations at Network Rail, Chuka Umunna (Local MP), John Larkinson (Acting Director, Railway Planning and Performance for the Office of Rail Regulation), Ian Prosser (Director of Railway Safety at ORR), Lambeth Council Roadworks Hotline, and the Councillor Steve Reed (the Head of Lambeth Council and Ian Raxton (HM Principal Inspector of Railways at ORR).

All,

I am writing concerning works on the Railway Bridge at Streatham Common station in South West London. Not only have Network Rail and Lambeth Council failed to notify the local community that it would be divorced from the rest of Streatham for a period of six months it appears to have no traffic management plan, no public safety plan, little idea about how to respond to complaints, and no idea how this will affect traffic in the area. The situation is summed up well by the signs on the roadworks themselves containing network rail’s phone number – hastily written in black marker pen on plain white card in very poor, nearly illegible handwriting.

There are several key problems with this bridge closure:-

– Most importantly the removal of the pedestrian crossings on the Streatham Vale side of the bridge had left pedestrians, particularly school children, dangerously exposed to to traffic coming from Greyhound lane and turning right into Aberfoyle road and traffic in general coming in both directions on a heavily used main road. When a bus is in the bus stop or a large HGV is queuing on the Streatham Vale side of the bridge, a pedestrian’s view of the opposite side of the junction is completely blocked (see attached photo). The result is traffic speeding at pedestrians in a narrow environment where it is not possible for the driver to take avoiding action without colliding with other traffic or other pedestrians. If this cannot be remedied the road works should be suspended until it can be fixed – this will get someone, most likely a school child, killed.

– The extent and reasoning for the road works was not communicated to residents of the area at all. The only notification turned out to be an A4 planning application tied to a lamp post 5 days prior to the initial works commencing.

– Closing the bridge for six months will bankrupt many of the businesses on the Greyhound lane side of the bridge, by removing all foot traffic and all road traffic from both directions, this includes two new businesses that have recently opened in units that have been unoccupied for years.

– It will prevent many elderly and vulnerable residents from reaching the local post office and banks on Streatham High Road, which are located on the Greyhound lane site of the bridge.

– It will remove all public transport links from Streatham Vale to Streatham High Road.

– It creates traffic rat-runs through residential areas going past several local schools. No temporary speed limits have been put in place, no temporary traffic calming measures have been made, and no diversion routes have been arranged.

– The timing of the road works coincides with major works on Streatham High Road and the Mitcham Lane end of Streatham Vale, the combined effect of all these programmes will be to completely cripple the area.

– Southern Railway often experiences critical failures on the High Speed line to Brighton during the winter months (this appears to be down to a failure to install gritters on more than two thirds of its fleet and its inability to run trains on time when it rains). With these closures in place Streatham Vale residents will be stuck in Clapham or Balham for hours as they will be unable to use Buses or Taxis to reach home by road.

To make matters worse, when I tried to report the very urgent problem of the pedestrian crossing removal to Network Rail three separate calls over three days were completely ignored, and during each call Network Rail staff attempted to push the problem on to the local council or the contractor conducting the works. In the end I had to contact the community liaison team’s supervisor directly to gain any response. Calls to the local council were not treated with any urgency, and went unescaled.

I find it hard to imagine to imagine a more incompetently structured, poorly communicated, and poorly executed project, whomever conceived the community relations and local traffic management parts of the plan needs to be removed from their post immediately.

It is particularly galling that the reason for all of this work is for an 18 metre platform extension for the local station, yet there is more than enough space to extend the platform in the opposite direction without any of the above issues being created. As a result of these problems and the urgent public safety issues I request that you immediately suspend the works and reinstate the bridge until local residents can be properly consulted and a safe plan for conducting the works can be put in place.

Regards,

Resident of Helmsdale Road, Streatham Vale.

It will be interesting to see what kind of response I get.

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