Streatham MP Chuka Umunna has demanded Network Rail bosses make an apology and ensure proper compensation for local businesses for the damage caused by the organisation’s mishandling of works around Greyhound Lane in his constituency.
As he told senior Network Rail officials that the ‘future of the area is in your hands’, Mr Umunna warned that the area around Greyhound Lane risked becoming a ‘boarded-up district’ if businesses were not sufficiently compensated for Network Rail’s mishandling of the works.
Admitting that Network Rail had made serious mistakes, the bosses told Mr Umunna that Network Rail ‘should have done better’, saying ‘we hold up our hands’: The bosses acknowledged to Mr Umunna that ‘the disruption to businesses has been worse than we thought’, admitting the project had not previously even had a budget line for compensation. The bosses were clear that Network Rail had made mistakes, telling Mr Umunna that their priority now was ‘to be as responsible as we possibly can’.
Mr Umunna told the Network Rail bosses that it would be impossible for them to fully make up for the damage caused to the local area, telling the bosses that at least four employees had already been laid off as a result of the works and that takings had suffered severely in the affected businesses.
As well as an apology sent to all local residents, Mr Umunna’s demands included that a single point of contact be created for affected businesses, that full and accurate information about claiming compensation would be sent to all those affected and that small businesses would not be treated unfairly compared to big businesses.
Mr Umunna told Network Rail bosses that a long wait for compensation would be totally unacceptable for local businesses, which have already been struggling for far too long and need the compensation they deserve. Network Rail bosses agreed to contact all the affected businesses and to appoint a single point of contact to provide information for them to claim compensation.
Mr Umunna, who has been in contact with Network Rail numerous times in the past several weeks, has tabled parliamentary questions to require answers from the Secretary of State for Transport and the whole ministerial transport team on the issue. Mr Umunna has received a large amount of correspondence about this issue and recently went to Streatham Vale to talk through the issue with many of the businesses most affected.
Commenting, Streatham MP Chuka Umunna, said:
“Network Rail’s handling of the works in the Streatham Vale part of my constituency has been an absolute disgrace. Failure after failure has led to danger on our roads and massive disruption for kids who need to get to school and tired commuters who need to get home; it has meant that businesses have been left reeling, with takings severely down and footfall plummeting.
It is intolerable that the huge personal sacrifices local business owners and workers have put in to see their businesses through the recession has now been jeopardised by complete incompetence.
“These businesses need compensation for the wrongs they have suffered. They need compensation and they need it quickly. Delays will mean more lay-offs. Insufficient payments will mean more lay-offs.
“Network Rail will never be able to fully make up for the harm that’s been caused, but there’s a lot they can do to relieve the stark situation that businesses are now facing. Proper compensation is the key. I am determined to do everything within my power to make sure Network Rail turn around this disgraceful situation.
“I hope sincerely that the reassurances Network Rail have given me over the last several weeks about this project, particularly that the road safety situation is now improved, are correct. It is appalling that this was ever not the case. If anyone has any concerns about this at all, or anything else to do with this issue, I urge them to contact me immediately.
“The rage there is locally about this is undoubtedly justified. I share the strong feelings of my constituents on this issue and I will not rest until Network Rail sort this out.”