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 Coulgate Street remains shut, weeds are growing where grass banks were envisaged, pavement has been replaced by tarmac and the staircase at the northern end of the site has not been built.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?


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.