The Handrail's Tale

The long-awaited Brockley Station handrail under construction, suggesting the staircase may open soon

"My only regret is that I have...Boneitis."
- Steve Castle, Futurama

The Brockley Common works currently underway on Coulgate Street were designed to make the common land accessible to the public, create a pleasant space that could be used for performance and improve accessibility to the station from the east side, in anticipation of the eventual TfL investment in the west side platform, which will make that side of the station accessible to wheelchairs in a few years.
Unfortunately, a project that was due to take a little over two months has now taken more than twice as long and is still not complete. Access to the station from both sides has been inconvenient and occasionally farcical. Coulgate Street remains shut, weeds are growing where grass banks were envisaged, pavement has been replaced by tarmac and the staircase at the northern end of the site has not been built.

Most recently, the Council has attributed the delay to the problems involved with installing a handrail, but as this picture shows, perhaps the end is at last in sight.

Meanwhile, Cllr Walton has been trying to get to the bottom of the problems via formal questions. The resulting response is below and is fairly exasperating. There's no acknowledgement that anything very much is or was ever wrong, although they are happy to attribute a fair amount of blame to Brockley Cross Action Group for delays with the handrail. Given that the BXAG has been shut out of the project management process, this seems wholly unreasonable.

This kind of stonewalling response from the Council is counter productive. It's OK to admit mistakes and to acknowledge problems - people want to hear honest responses and they need to know that the Council recognises the issues, because to solve a problem, we must first admit it exists.

The answer suggests that the Council is ready to wash its hands of the problem and hand it back to the BXAG to sort the planting out, which is, in the circumstances, a huge relief.

Here's the Q&A:

Why has the Brockley Station project has taken such a long time to complete? What is the final cost for the scheme as compared with the original budget? What explanations are there for the difference? Has any of the increase in cost been attributed to poor performance of the contractor - and if so will these be recovered? Has communication and liaison with local residents and businesses about the scheme has been adequate, particularly in relation to the extensive delays? Is the funding for planting adequate to ensure a successful outcome?

Reply

The Brockley Station ramp has been planned as a high quality scheme to improve the area, and forms the core of the Brockley Common project, which originated as a local initiative. The ramp has been developed in close collaboration with Brockley Cross Action Group with a steering group chaired by Joan Ruddock MP. Funding for the Common has been obtained from a variety of sources and Lewisham has managed to find the overwhelming majority of funding from its own resources and by bidding to Department of Transport for disabled access funding.

The start of works on the scheme was dictated by the disabled access funding which was time limited. The works are substantially complete, but the steps can’t be opened safely until the hand-railing is fixed due to the potential fall hazard to the edge of the steps and piazza. The hand-railing is a specialist item designed and specified by the Brockley Cross Action Group and could not be ordered until the specification was known, at the end of June 09. The order for the hand-railing had a lead in time of approximately 6 weeks due to the bespoke nature of the item.

The total budget for the scheme was £182k, which it was hoped would be enough to regrade the area, creating a new ramp and steps from the southern part of the site, along with a small performance area and steps at the northern end of the site. The scheme was split into two phases, with the performance area and northern steps to be constructed as a second phase if funds permitted. It was expected that the final cost of the initial phase of the scheme would be £150k. It is expected to be around £331k as a result of extra costs to remove soil which had to be treated as it was asbestos contaminated, but there are some costs still to be resolved with the contractor as is normal at the conclusion of a project. There are no issues regarding poor performance.

Communication with local traders has been carried out regularly by both the town centre manager and the engineers, and with the local community via updates which have been extensively reported, However, I agree that, with hindsight, regular update notices on site would have been beneficial.
It was always the intention that the Brockley Cross Action Group would lead on the planting of the area and I am aware that they have asked for a contribution from the localities fund to help them do this.

35 comments:

Anonymous said...

Did Hadrians wall take this long

The other Brockley Nick said...

I just really resent the stupidity of allowing people to scrabble up and down the muddy bank but not use steps without a handrail. What a joke.

And why has the whole road been blocked off for so long? The end near the bridge has now turned into a parking spot for lots of motorists and a storage area for D&M van hire (the arrival of lots of massive D&M trucks round brockley cross is surely another story... ), thus forcing pedestrians into the road!

What a complete farce. I'm holding Ruddock responsible, she's the chair of this mess!

Maradoll said...

Can someone interept what this means for me in context of the project:

"create a pleasant space that could be used for performance"

Headhunter said...

Hadrian's Wall? I don't think the Great Wall of China took this long!

Brockley Nick said...

Maradoll, if you climb the new ramp to where it does a sharp 180 turn, there is a patch of gravel. Imagine if that patch of gravel was instead some grass, some benches and a backdrop of trees, with a couple of lights. You could then hold mini-concerts, etc. That was roughly the idea.

Tressillian James said...

Did I read this correctly - the costs are going to be in excess of £300k? Without the second set of stairs, without the community space, without the planting?

Anonymous said...

the handrails look sh1t don't they.

Anonymous said...

"There are no issues regarding poor performance."

I'd hate to see how bad it would have to have been...

Matt-Z said...

@Anon 18.34

Yes, yes they do. Plain and ordinary. I fail to see what's special about them that caused such delays in their procurement.

Finland Freak said...

A six week lead-in for handrails! did they grow them?

Is anyone able to publish a list of the elected materminds involved in this debacle? I wish to ensure that I don't accidentally vote for any of them.

Brockley Kate said...

Well done Lewisham Labour Party, as you can see there are plenty of keen voters here for the forthcoming general election ...

Paddyom said...

Sorry if i missed this, but does anyone know whats happening on the West side of the station? Plenty of contruction vehicles busily moving earth around? Thanks

Matt-Z said...

It's preparator works for the installation of a new Oyster card reader. Expected completion 2014.

Anonymous said...

As a constituency MP Ruddock is as much use as a chocolate teapot. She takes her majority for granted, but sadly she's almost certainly right.

drakefell debaser said...

Paddyom, the works going on the West are for a block of flats.

It wasn't that long ago that I thought the flats would be done before the station refurb and I suppose if you include the bits that they are not doing just yet for the station, due to cash and poor planning, that possibility is quite likely.

I thought the station hut was going to be clad in timber too, does anyone know if that is still likely or will it continue to look like the HQ of a refugee camp?

Degustation lover said...

That tacky tarmac on Coulgate St cheeses me off like a piece of Camembert de Normandie.

Anonymous said...

This only slowed down because the mung bean eaters wanted an independent supplier of materials FFS!

Toad said...

Asbestos played a part in the problem too, the massive overspend, did it not.

Allowing the blame for this delay to be placed exclusively on the BXAG is strange.

BXAG probably can't make statements about this, because they need to work with the council on other projects and so can't burn bridges.

I feel sorry for them, they give up their time to try and make Brockley a better place for all and they get this. As for mung bean eaters. I've met some of them and they don't fit into that stereotype at all.

Anonymous said...

nice pun on the title for the thread Nick.

Anonymous said...

Southern is not a passenger focussed company, much of the inconvenience with the ramp would've been alleviated if Southern were more thoughtful. Either keep the platform 2 gate open in the evenings to let people out. Almost all will have tickets as you can't get on or off a train at LB without going through the gates and NXG have improved security too.
So the risk of the loss of fares is quite low, certainly low enough not p*ss off your customers as much as you have these past weeks.

Argh said...

At the top of the stairs there's a gap in the railings of several inches which looks ridiculous, who ever measured up got it wrong. It never ends...

Paddyom said...

Thanks Drake and Matt

Matt-Z said...

@ Argh

The gap is shocking, about 10 cm. Unless there's a joining piece coming, there's been a major cock-up.

Also, as you go walk up the steps, the breeze blocks on either edge are still visible below the coping stones.

Pete T said...

Last night I caught the 10.45pm from platform 5 London Bridge. Fair play to the rail company they sent a train with 10 carriages. I stood up but I had a little bit of space around so I could read, so it was good journey.

However we get to Brockley, people are tired it's been a long week etc,etc, just wanna get home quick, perhaps catch the 484 for the final bit home (because you're that tired).

But not so fast, because the platform 2 gate is shut. There's a train company guy in a box by the gate, but he has no answers. People are fed up and there's comments of 'this is stupid' and one guy shook the gate in futile hope that it would open. Nope, so a mass of people have to turn around, pace to the stairs, there's people with suitcases lugging them up, fumbling and walking up stairs for Oyster cards and ticket as then head for the narrow ticket hall (hall is too grand a word its a rickety portacabin...these gates happen to be open. They go down another set of stairs and finally off and out of station property, in time to see a 484 rolling past.

It doesn't and shouldn't have to be like this. Why are people funnelled around like this? With no annonucements or sense of logic.

Anonymous said...

What is the point in locking the gate on platform 2 and then keeping the ticket barriers in the ticket hall open?! You may as well just keep the gate open as well.It seems so obvious!

Paul

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
patrick1971 said...

How on earth can this have cost £331K? £331K?!?!?!?!

fabhat said...

A bench has appeared halfway down the ramp of doom. Perfect place to sit and contemplate the weeds.

The Cat Man said...

its for the workmen, they are here for a long long time..

Anonymous said...

We have this lovely new ramp to get wheelchairs and prams up to the bridge and ticket hall but if you want to get a train into London you are pretty stuffed as there is no way down on to Platform 1! Seens like a waste of money to me!

Archdeacon said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...

Looks like the steps are already crimbling to me. The black strips that seem to have been glued to the steps with Pritt Stick have now started to 'fall' off.

331K spent on a useless ramp, tarmacced pavement and crumbling steps.

I'm sure FM Conway are very happy to receive the money for their efforts.

Anonymous said...

..don't forget the inexplicable gap in the state-of-the-art handrail.

Darren said...

I've lived in Brockley for about 5 months, almost the total duration of this utterly dismal project. As someone who uses the station every day I have had lots of time to contemplate the management of the project's progress, the state of the work being carried out, its overall aesthetic and eventual spasmodic emergence into full shambolic glory (complete with ill-fitting handrail and shabby plastic strips).

For me personally the Brockley station building project has come to symbolise the last excremental gasps of British culture, politics and economics. I swear that at times you could precisely map the daily demise of our economy and politics by surveying the sorry state of the work being done on this site. Seriously. My own view is that the existing Brockley steps, ramp and handrail ultimately depict the decrepit and senile British cultural and political psyche better than any other building, artwork, novel, film, etc. which has been produced in recent times. This single building project has managed to articulate a profoundly miserable cultural truth with rare eloquence. I've come to value the new steps and ramp in a way I thought impossible merely a few weeks ago, and would encourage all fellow Brockleyeans to join with me in celebrating this important cultural landmark. They sit there as a vital and important cultural monument, and should be cherished by all as a timely reminder of the cultural, political and economic zeitgeist. I think they should be carefully removed and installed at the Venice Biennale next year. Surely such an installation could be sold for at least as much as it cost...

Headhunter said...

God. I'm now thoroughly depressed. It's the end of civilisation as we know it... I've never been called a "Brockleyan" before though. I thought we were "Brockleyites"?

Brockley Central Label Cloud