Wednesday 25 January 2017

High Speed Rail Project can't deliver low speed public notices to those affected by test drilling in South Kilburn

This image does not necessarily  reflect the views of our guest blogger
Guest blog by Pete Firmin, resident on the South Kilburn Estate

Just a few notes from the exhibition event HS2 held in South Kilburn studios on Monday, which might be useful for those who couldn’t make it (and even for some who did).

As ever, lots of boards with maps and lots of HS2 people standing around waiting to sell you their  pet project. Though whenever I asked a question it was never the person I asked who could (attempt to) answer it. We, of course, are expected to understand every aspect of what is going on. While I was there (late afternoon) there were not many members of the public (maybe 6 during the 3/4 hour I was there). As ever, this may well get portrayed as a lack of interest, taking no account of the fact that of those who heard about the event (see below) many would have felt there wasn’t much point in going, or couldn’t make the times (3-7) it was held. Funny how they could send everybody a letter (twice) by recorded delivery saying they might need to CP0 their property, yet can neither rescind these notices (by sending everybody a letter) nor ensure delivery of letters they consider less important).

My first question was about distribution of the notice of the event, knowing that I only knew about it by other means and at least some others in Gorefield House had not had notice. First reaction – as always – was to say it had been delivered, then to retreat into “I know there was at least one block the contracted delivery firm couldn’t get into and we asked for them to send them via Royal Mail, I will check if that happened”. I pointed out that I live on the ground floor with direct access, but that didn’t seem to compute. I also said that it was bit late if they found out now that it never happened.  This is a recurring problem, whether with the Council direct or others (such as the film company last year). They either don’t bother to deliver, or do not check if it has happened.

Another issue which comes up regularly is the maps that are used (people may remember that at the parliamentary enquiry into HS2 we pointed out the inaccuracy of their maps). In this case it seemed questionable as to whether they recognised that Canterbury Road does not continue on to Coventry Close, but that there is a section which is just footpath. Cathedral walk was certainly not named on any of their maps. Maybe this is why some people seem to think it is okay to drive vehicles along the footpath.

Part of the significance of Cathedral Walk is that during their test drilling, and later during the main work, they may find they have problem with utility pipes etc, in which case they would need to do work on them, which could mean taking up part of Canterbury Road and Cathedral Walk, something they will otherwise not need to do.

This event was primarily just about the test drilling, not the main construction. Even so, I was able to ask again about lorry movements etc. This will be of particular interest to people in Albert Road and Canterbury Terrace. For the main construction there will be 100 heavy lorry movements a day (50 in, 50 out). They will enter the site along Albert Road from the Queens Park end, entering  the site through the railway entrance at the end of Albert Road. They will leave through Canterbury Works and turn into Canterbury Terrace and back down Albert Road. When I raised (again) the issue of the narrowness of Albert Road to take these vehicles, I got the response from the “traffic guy” that he had just realised this and they would need to look at how they overcame the problem! We’ve only been pointing this out for years, after all. One thing they will probably do is make Albert Road one way (for other traffic, not HS2) with a diversion.

Their plans also show the loss of 15 parking bays on Albert Road during construction. When I asked where those people were expected to park, I was told wherever they can. No provision will be made for alternative parking. When I pointed out the lack of parking spaces in the estate already, I got a shrug of the shoulders. I also asked where site workers were going to park and was told they would be `expected’ to use public transport. When I asked `yes, but what if they do bring their cars”, he said they would need to pay for parking. And what if they use residents parking bays, as was a constant problem with the construction site on Alpha Place? `That’s up to the Council to enforce’. More wry laughter from me.

An issue of particular concern to many of us is working hours and enforcement of them. I was told that working hours are restricted to 8-6, BUT that they are allowed half an hour each side for preparation. They said they would also take account of the fact that they would be next to the school, but I could not get an answer as to what this concretely means. From bitter experience, I asked how all this would be enforced and was told “these are top tier contactors who will know that have to keep to the rules”. I pointed out that Wilmott Dixon is also considered a pretty “top tier” construction company and had repeatedly flouted the rules, I was told this wouldn’t happen with HS2. When I asked about enforcement, I was firstly told the Council (wry laugh from me!) and that people could send in reports and photos of infringement. As if we hadn’t been doing so for years with no effect. They gave me a copy of their “Residents Charter” and their “Code of Construction Practice”, but we have seen such promises before. Hopefully these are worth more than the paper they are written on, but we will obviously need to keep a close watch.

Lastly, I have been asking at every opportunity for years whether it creates problems that they will be tunnelling for HS2 underneath the Bakerloo line and never got an answer. Finally spoke to someone who knew what he was talking about, who said, yes, there are particular issues and `we will need to monitor whether our tunnelling causes the Bakerloo tunnels to sink. We don’t expect them to, and we don’t foresee having to close the Bakerloo line (or the mainline nearby) at all’.

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