Our transport correspondent, JEREMY CLACKSON, on first reactions to proposals for infrastucture works to unblock the Croydon Bottleneck
Homes and properties along Gloucester Road, the Tait Road industrial estate, Swan Close and Lambert’s Place all seem likely to be subject to complete or partial compulsory purchase to enable an additional two tracks to be laid, if proposals being consulted by Network Rail are eventually accepted.
Network Rail has plans to fix what it regards as the worst bottleneck in all of Britain’s railways, and its six-week consultation began on Monday, giving residents, MPs and local councillors a first sight of some – though not much – of its detail.
Increasing the number of platforms at East Croydon from six to eight, adding two extra tracks and replacing five junctions with flyovers and dive-unders are part of a grand plan to reduce delays on Southern, Thameslink and Gatwick Express services between London, Surrey and the south coast.
What has also become clear to those who have attended the early consultation sessions is the extent of land needed to achieve the scheme’s objectives, land that is currently owned by dozens of residents and businesses on the west side of the tracks between East Croydon and the Selhurst junction.
Another seemingly inevitable consequence of the plans is a complete re-build of Windmill Bridge, where the busy A222 crosses what is currently five railway tracks, and all the disruption which that might involve. Given Croydon’s recent experiences of Network Rail and bridge schemes – the still uncompleted Bridge to Nowhere, and more recently the Blackhorse Lane repair delays – some degree of reluctance or scepticism about the engineering body to be able to deliver on such works in a timely manner would be understandable.
There also appears to be proposals for another tall residential block to be built, over the top of East Croydon Station, presumably to help defray some of the huge costs of this massive infrastructure project.
Specialist rail transport website London Reconnections, which accepts the principle that much work needs to be done on the Brighton Main Line in the area of the Croydon Bottleneck, has written this week, “The consultation could really be summed up in five words: ‘Should we be doing this?’
“Network Rail is clearly hoping for positive (or at least an absence of negative) feedback, but the idea is to get the issue about whether it is a worthwhile scheme established at the outset.
“The first thing to say about this consultation is – don’t get excited by it. This consultation… is about implementing disruptive infrastructure improvements in the Croydon area in order to provide long-term benefits to rail services.
“Expect the usual notorious graphics from Network Rail explaining concepts and symbolising nothing that can be accurately related to what will actually happen on the ground.”
Indeed, that was exactly what Inside Croydon’s loyal reader discovered when they attended one of the sessions this week.
“They have an exhibition with lots of statistics and projections, a little information about altering East Croydon Station, even less information about altering the railway junction, and no information at all about the dozens of businesses in Tait Road industrial estate, Swan Close and homes in Gloucester Road and in Lambert’s Place,” they said.
“If the two extra lines are constructed they will go on the west side of existing tracks, that is, between existing track and Gloucester Road and Lambert’s Place. They intend to have flyovers so that tracks can pass over each other at multiple levels. That will require ramps, so track will be above existing ground level causing more noise, closer to existing homes and businesses.
“How can they put two extra lines in without restricting or preventing access to Tait Road industrial estate businesses facing the railway?
“They have powers to buy property under compulsory purchase orders, but have no proposals for which properties will be purchased in their entirety, and which properties will lose some of their back gardens – my guess would be up to 30 feet.
“It is in their financial interest to buy part of a back garden, build the line and leave houses and businesses closer to new railway.
“Windmill Bridge, carrying St James Road and Lower Addiscombe Road over the railway will be widened, thus effecting access to and from Gloucester Road, Lambert’s Place, Cross Road, Freemasons Road and possibly Lansdowne Road and Milton Road. It may be that access to Lambert’s Place will have to be under the new bridge from Bridge Place and Gloucester Road. Network Rail cannot say because they say that the precise route has not been designed.
“Meanwhile homes and businesses on the west side of the line are blighted for the next five years.
“Anyone who expects compensation approaching the loss in value of their property or in respect of inconvenience should dream on. Under the Transport and Works Act, Network Rail do not need to apply for planning consent, they only need to submit a bill to Parliament, for MPs to approve.”
- Click here for a very detailed examination of the issues surrounding the Croydon Bottleneck and the works required to deliver it
- VIDEO: 39 trains stopped in two hours in the log-jam that is the Croydon Bottleneck
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