Meeting with Network Rail, Lambeth Traffic Management, and Volker Fitzpatrick

I met with Network Rail, Lambeth Traffic Management, and Volker Fitzpatrick at the Streatham Bridge site this evening. I’ll update this post with complete details as soon as I can, but the meeting was very disappointing.

Lambeth Council do not accept that the pedestrian crossing on the Vale side of the bridge is unsafe, at one point told me that residents should ‘grow up’ regarding the crossing point, and don’t seem to accept that the disruption is already affecting local businesses. When I raised the issue of the gas supply to Funky Medusa being delayed by two months it was literally laughed at and blamed on the gas installer, they simply don’t understand the problems their ‘plan’ is causing.

All parties refuse to suspend the works until a competent plan can be put in place and Network Rail outright refused to discuss compensation for local businesses, saying only that they will discuss it on a case by case basis – don’t phone us, we won’t phone you!

Network Rail did apologise for the incompetent communication plan, but their attitude is ‘we are where we are, we must move on’ – I can’t tell you how many times I heard that phrase.

I wish any of it surprised me. I don’t believe that a single person at the meeting, other than the Volker Fitzpatrick representative (who was offended at being called out over his unbelievably stupid plan for the works), really believed that any of the agencies concerned had done the right thing.

Tomorrow I will be meeting Norman Baker, the Parliamentary Under Secretary for the Department for Transport – I hope he can help the local community out!

Updates to follow.

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More from Councillor Peck

Finally a response to my email of the 17th from Councillor Peck. It only took eight days!

You’ll note the lack of information and action.

Dear Mr,

Thank you for your further email, which Cllr Reed passed on to me. I’m very sorry to hear about the experience you had during your site visit. I agree with your points about communications, and as I’ve said before I think this can be better on all sides. I am taking this up with Network Rail, Southern and council officers so we can quickly get some better communications in place and that the concerns about safety are addressed.

Best wishes,

Lib

Councillor Lib Peck, Thornton ward
Cabinet member for Regeneration and Strategic Housing

Second Email to Network Rail CEO

Since no action has been taken after my previous email to the Network Rail CEO and site meeting with Network Rail and Volker Fitzpatrick I again wrote 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 wrote to you all eight days ago regarding the bridge works at Streatham Common station in South West London. I had hoped to alert you to the fact that your works will not only do irreparable harm to the local economy, that the junction layout on the Streatham Vale side of the bridge was deeply unsafe, and that no genuine effort had been made to communicate your plans to the local community.

Very sadly a number of you have not directly responded to the email and those that did seem to think the site meeting would be enough to allay my concerns. Despite my meeting with two representatives of Volker and one from Network Rail, one week on absolutely nothing has been done to better communicate the closure plan, or to make the junction safer. In the meantime one serious accident, two minor accidents and numerous near misses have occurred on the junction.

The card shop in Streatham Vale report their trade has fallen nearly 50%, the as yet unopened spa on the Greyhound lane side of the bridge has been told she will be unable to obtain a gas supply for 8 weeks as a result of the works and the three local estate agents have lost two rental sales, one purchase, and a three renewals between them – all attributed to the bridge works.

The on-site meeting was very poor indeed, no discussion of the communication plans were possible. Volker’s representative was forced to admit he had failed to conduct a risk assessment for pedestrians, despite removing four pedestrian crossings from a four lane junction directly outside the third busiest station on the Southern network, and very surprised to discover that the road traffic was a source of passing trade for local businesses. He was, however, very keen that I understood that Volker had only done what was legally required of them.

“We have committed to keeping local people informed through an enhanced communications programme including leaflets and information on the council’s website.” – NR representative at the public meeting.

Not even the simplest steps, such as printing a poster and placing it in the frames at the local station have been taken. No signage has been placed on the local roads, no leaflets have been distributed, nothing but a corrupt excel spreadsheet exists on the Lambeth Council website, and only a meaningless press release has been placed on the network rail site (this on the 9th of October, 3 weeks after works started).

Businesses were only given ten days notice of the closure, basically they were informed at the point the road works started, only four days notice was provided for the public meeting, and even Lambeth’s planning notice lists the 1st of November as the deadline for objections to be raised – the day the bridge will be closed off completely. No information is available about the 7 full weekend closures that we will experience.

I would like to request a formal explanation from David Higgins as to how this clearly incompetent plan came to pass. I would also like to request that John Larkinson investigates Network Rail’s level of competence regarding this matter as it appears every consideration has been given to Southern’s, economically motivated, desire not to extend the platform in the opposite direction, but no effort has been made to consult with, or even asses the impact of these plans on the Streatham economy or the local community.

I ask that you take immediate action to suspend the closure of the bridge until a competent plan can be put in place and the local community properly consulted.

Regards,

Resident of Helmsdale road Streatham Vale

Response from Lambeth’s Street Works Manager

This morning I received another response from Lambeth Council to my email of the the 8th of October. Have to say that I love the ‘Lambeth – The Cooperative Council’ tag at the bottom of the email, it seems they’re keen to Cooperate with Network Rail, Southern and Volker Fitzpatrick but not the local residents!

Dear Mr,

Thank you for your e-mail regarding the Network Rail works currently taking place on Greyhound Lane.

With regards to the unsafe and poorly planned works, I will investigate this matter and to reply to your questions in the next 3 working days.
If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact me.
Regards
Michelle (Laura) Markey
Streetworks Manager
Traffic & Highways
Environmental Services & Highways
Lambeth Housing Regeneration and Environment
London Borough of Lambeth
3rd Flr Blue Star House
234-244 Stockwell Road
London, SW9 9SP
Phone: 020 7926 0318
Fax: 020 7926 2357
Mobile: 07791 653 409
E-mail: LMarkey@lambeth.gov.uk
web site: http://www.lambeth.gov.uk
Lambeth – The Cooperative Council

Update:

As of the 28th of September, I have received no further response from Ms Markey.

Response from Lambeth Transport and Streets

I received the following response to my email of the 8th October from an advisor in the Lambeth Transport and Streets Call Centre.

Dear,

Thank you for your email regarding the unsafe and poorly planned railway bridge works at Streatham Common station.

I have forwarded your email onto the Streatham Common station team who are dealing with the bridge works.

Please allow up to 7-10 working days for someone to contact you.

Please do not hesitate to contact me should you require any further information.

Regards

Update:

As of the 28th of September I have received no further contact from the Lambeth Transport and Streets team.

Response from Councillor Peck

I received the following response to my email of the 8th October from Cllr Peck, who has cabinet responsibility for road works at Lambeth Council.

Dear Mr,

Thank you for your email. Cllr Reed asked me to respond on his behalf, as this is my Cabinet responsibility. I’m very sorry for the experience that you have had getting in contact with the Council and Network Rail and the communications, I agree that this could have been better on all sides. I understand the issues you’ve raised about safety and disruptions and I’ve asked the Council’s transport and highways team and Network Rail to look into these and provide a fuller response.

Network Rail is responsible for the work but we have been working closely with them. The work to extend the platforms at Streatham Common station is to allow longer trains and more passengers. But the work will mean that the railway bridge at Greyhound Lane will need to be closed, first partially until November 2nd and then fully in both directions until April 29 2013. Local councillors and council traffic officers have held meetings with representatives from Network Rail to try and make sure disruption is kept to a minimum. A public meeting was held by Network Rail in Streatham Vale on 4 October. We have put a news item on our website and information about the diversions and traffic management plans can be found here.

We will be keeping watch on this extremely closely to monitor traffic levels and are seeking regular meetings with Network Rail and local residents to monitor progress and share any concerns as the work progresses.

The Council has also set up an email address for enquiries relating to the traffic management around these works:
Streathamcommonstation@lambeth.gov.uk.

Kind regards,

Lib

Cllr Lib Peck
Cabinet Member for Regeneration and Strategic Housing
lpeck@lambeth.gov.uk

Not a particularly impressive response, ‘we could have done this better’ but no offer of action. I made the following reply:

Dear Cllr Peck,

So far as I can see the plan as a whole is weak, ill conceived, incompetently executed, utterly destructive to the local economy and dangerous to pedestrians.

The complete failure to communicate the plan to local residents in advance of the works starting is yet another demonstration, if one were needed, of the expensive incompetence of Lambeth council.

There is no sustainable argument for extending the platform underneath this road bridge. I therefore formally request you suspend the bridge closure plan immediately until it can be properly considered by the community and a fit plan can be made.

If you would like to discuss this please contact me on [number removed]

Regards,

His response was:

Dear Mr,

I understand that you are meeting with Network Rail tomorrow. It is clearly their project and their proposals so you will have an opportunity to discuss the soundness of it with them tomorrow.

Network Rail has also been leading the communications. However as I said in my earlier mail I am sorry that you have found the Council equally unresponsive. I am hoping that following the public meeting where there were many suggestions about improving the Council’s communications Lambeth will be able to improve its information to residents.

Best wishes,
Lib

Councillor Lib Peck, Thornton ward
Cabinet member for Regeneration and Strategic Housing

Report on public meeting regarding Greyhound Lane Bridge closure at Streatham Common Station

From the todays Streatham Green News Blog, a report on last night’s public meeting with Network Rail. Sadly I was unable to attend, which was not surprising given we had only four days notice of the hastily arranged meeting!

I understand over 100 people attended, which was great news, and that the performance of those leading the meeting was questionable at best.

Report on public meeting regarding Greyhound Lane Bridge closure at Streatham Common Station
[Updated 8/10/12 as we have been following up action which was promised at the meeting]

There was an emotionally charged public meeting last Thursday night (4th October) at Granton Primary School, organised by Network Rail, regarding the closure of the bridge on Greyhound Lane by Streatham Common Station.

There is a lot of local anger around the effect that it will have on local people and businesses, but also the lack of notice and consultation.

Local Green Scott Ainslie was among those asking questions and sent a report from the meeting, containing the information which was given in response to questions from local people.

The work itself

The work involves extending Platforms 1 and 2 under the bridge, to accommodate longer trains, and this is what is causing the need to replace the bridge. The bridge is also 100 years old and needs updating to meet new safety standards.

When asked why platforms couldn’t be extended North instead, it was said the railway junction, being on a corner, was too busy and would raise issues of safety. Network Rail said all options had been considered, and this was the only feasible one.

The anticipated closure, impact and arrangements

They are forecasting the bridge will be closed completely for 6 months, then around May-June, 2013, the bridge will be open on one side until the work is completed at the end of June.

A single lane is closed at the moment in order to set up a temporary footbridge and foundation points. Current ongoing ground investigative works may mean that time can be saved later on.

Normal weekly commuters should not be affected too much, as most of the work will be carried out at the weekends, when a replacement bus service will operate. (Please allow for longer journeys as the effect on the roads will be substantial!) However, the station will be closed altogether on Saturday 3rd and Sunday 4th November, but will open again on the 5th November.

Diversions will be in place for drivers. Please see Lambeth website for details of this (they are not there at the moment!)
Impact on local businesses

The question was asked what Network Rail would do to mitigate the effect on local businesses? Streatham’s Town Centre manager, Angelina Purcell has asked Maureen Smith to look at business rates-block reductions. Angelina has promised to keep everyone up to date. The question was also put whether Network Rail could have a slush fund for this. There was a promise from Network Rail to look into this.

The lack of consultation

Many people only found out last week by word of month about these works. There have been no posters at the station telling people. It was claimed that 2000 letters went out, however only 2 out of 150 people at the meeting said that they had received a letter, and this was in August. (So, obviously no room for ‘consultation’ anyway!)

There was a feeling at the meeting from local people that there had been no consultation at all, and people said they felt ‘appallingly treated’ and called this ‘unprofessional’.

There was a repeated apology during the meeting from Network Rail for this.

There were also questions about when Lambeth council and local councillors knew, and why they did not inform/consult people sooner. Lambeth council were told about the works, but Lambeth officers said they felt there was no point ‘alarming’ the public over potential works. When the likely duration of the work started to increase and the work looked as if it would go ahead, councillors were allegedly told about it.

There was an apology on behalf of Lambeth council who apparently knew six months before about the proposed bridge works would go ahead around July/ August time. Cllr Mark Bennett promised to look into this and report back. We will ask Cllr Bennett for this information and ensure it is passed onto everyone.

There was also specific concern that local community groups and businesses had not been consulted. We made the point that in view of a claims that Lambeth is a cooperative Council, this fell well short of their intentions.

Questions were also raised about why the work was taking place in Winter when the days are shorter, with suggestions it should have been done in Spring/Summer.
Other issues

Local residents suggested that whilst these alterations are being made the opportunity should be taken for the station and local area to be made more accessible for all.

It was suggested that council officers should visit the site to see impact on traffic. They would also need to address the traffic light and pedestrian crossing, as there is no green man and the public’s safety is at risk.

There was great concern about the impact of traffic now going into side roads where the diverted traffic will run.
Further information

With regard to getting more information there is a 24 hr helpline for any questions: 08457 114141 or you can email Crsouth@networkrail.co.uk Information should also be posted on http://www.networkrail.co.uk and found if you search for “Streatham”. (This is not up currently, but Scott Ainslie has emailed them to ask when their site will be updated, as he was promised by James Azur-Kean of Network rail, that this would be done immediately).

Community relations adviser is John Eccles. You can ring the national helpline & ask for him.

There is also the possibility of Facebook page to be set up by Network Rail.

The Lambeth council website should also contain the latest information. Currently it does not, but we will pursue this.