Promoted by R Gambba-Jones & C Lawton on behalf of South Holland and The Deepings Conservative Association all of Office 1 10 Broad St Spalding PE11 1TB. Original printed by Welland Print Limited of West Marsh Road Spalding PE11 2BB
Rail bridge lights out for five years and counting
A pedestrians’ foot bridge has been left without lights for five years because repairs have been delayed for safety reasons. Hampshire County Council said it was waiting for permission from Network Rail to carry out the repairs.
25 May 2012 – Despite several online complaints, a full council motion by SHDC and a number of letters, with the last one being special delivery to the chief executive, nothing has changed since 16 March. A phone call from them today has now promised that the work will take place on Thursday of next week.
I have also now written to Grantham Magistrates’ Court, asking for advice on how to obtain a Litter Abatement Order against Network Rail.
I will be giving further updates via Twitter at: Twitter.com/gambba_jones
16 March 2012 – Some progress made on the Steppingstone Bridge cleanup campaign. The two overflowing skips have disappeared already – thank you NW, now what about the rest of it please?
A clean up team from SHDC has cleaned up the glass and used a portable vacuum to clean-up the dog ends and grime that had collected in the nooks and crannies. They’ve also cleaned up the litter and rubbish around the approaches.
No doubt it will be made a mess of again in a day or two, but we’ll just have keep redoing it until people get the message that making a mess of our environment is unacceptable and we won’t put up with it.
Below is the text of a letter I have recently sent to Network Rail about the disgusting state of both the Steppingstone Bridge and the areas around it. I also included some, but not all, of the photographs shown below.
Whilst taking these photos, members of the public told me that a bottle had been smashed on the bridge steps. I immediately asked the district council street cleaning team if they could find out who was responsible for the cleaning of this area. Not for the first time, the team avoided any temptation to hide behind the ’not my job guv’ excuse we often hear from other agencies and just went out and cleared it up – thank you guys!
The state of the bridge area has undoubtedly become far worse since Network Rail insisted on foisting their second hand cast-off bridge from Aylesbury upon Spalding. The hideously ugly galvanized steel fence, Network Rail then installed to protect a stack of pallets, two overflowing skips and the scrap metal old bridge, has added further to the rundown and hostile feeling that must be experienced by anybody crossing the bridge. Network Rail’s choice of material and style of fencing is completely inappropriate for a rural market town such as ours. Unfortunately, this is typical of the arrogance and disdain Network Rail has displayed throughout the whole Steppingstone Bridge replacement fiasco.
To add insult to injury, during installation of these defences, Network Rail ignored the fact that the solitary lamp post serving the bridge, was responsibility of Lincolnshire County Council Highways Dept and incarcerated it behind their fence. This has prevented any maintenance by LCC and means the light has now not worked for nearly 2 years!
So, as well as the design of the bridge meaning users cannot see who else is on it as they approach it, the top deck of the bridge is a black hole during the hours of darkness. This means that females pedestrians will not risk using it at night and will instead walk, or possibly even drive, the long way around in to the town centre.
The emerging proposals for the redevelopment of Holland Market offer, Network Rail a unique opportunity to become good neighbours to Spalding. In the same way that National Grid are sorting out the site of the old Spalding Gas Works, Network Rail should seek to cooperate with the Holland Market developers, to regenerate the eyesore they have created. I understand the old 5 Shed site, next to the Sainsbury roundabout, is also being considered for inclusion in any plans and this could be continued on to include the Network Rail waste land.
Even if Network show no inclination to be come involved in the project, it is completely unacceptable for them to leave their site in its current state. In its current condition and because of the ongoing neglect of bridge and the area around it, Steppingstone Bridge is both a blight and an embarrassment for Spalding.
I therefore urge all of those who care about Spalding and wish Network to show the town and its residents some respect, to write to the address below, demanding action.
Community Relations Complaints Procedure 9 March 2012
Network Rail HQ
90 York Way
London N1 9AG
Ref: Stepping Stones Bridge, Spalding – Rubbish and graffiti
Please find attached sample photographs of the current state of the above subject bridge and its surrounding areas. All these images were taken on the afternoon of 8 March 2012.
1. I request that you carry out urgent remedial work on the bridge surrounds to clear all the rubbish and on the bridge itself to remove the offensive graffiti. I accept that this is not caused by Network Rail operations, but by the residents of the town. Nonetheless, your company has a responsibility to maintain the area. Also, Network Rail was warned that replacing the original bridge with one of this design would make it a prime target for graffiti.
2. I would also request information on when Network Rail intend cleaning up the waste land surrounding the whole bridge area. This undoubtedly increases the general impression that the area is abandoned and rubbish dumping is therefore acceptable.
A bit more information for residents regarding the flooding problem the bridge suffers during periods of heavy rain. Below is a link to a letter received from LCC. As you will see from reading this, the issue of who does what on the bridge is far from straightforward. I will do my best to make progress on this before the freezing weather arrives again this year.
Minor progress of sorts on the lighting issue, although sadly no actual light at the end of the tunnel, because it still doesn’t work! At least I now know that it is a waste of timing asking either Network Rail or LCC to fix it.
I received a letter from LCC today, giving me some information on the situation regarding the lack of a working light on the bridge. It would seem that, despite being the county council and actually having responsiblity for the footpath that crosses the railway line via this bridge, LCC can’t get any more sense out of Network Rail than the rest of us. It’s difficult to believe that a company that relies so heavily on public money for its survival, can be so arrogant when it comes to addressing the concerns of members of that public.
Below is a copy of the letter I received today along with one sent to John Hayes MP.
Bottom line is, if I can find £3,500, the county council is willing to install and maintain lighting on the bridge. I will now be seeking some support from other Spalding members at the next Spalding Town Forum. This support could be by tapping in to the ward budgets, or maybe by seeking some help from the Spalding Power Station community fund. Watch this space.
In my long running battle to get something done with the new ‘second-hand’ Stepping Stones Bridge in Spalding, I have been communicating with Network Rail, the company that installed this poor excuse for a pedestrian link across the railway line.
Two issues have been raised time and time again by residents since the bridge was installed and in an effort to get these resolved, I registered a formal complaint with Network Rail’s customer contact line. Up until now, the people I spoke to on the phone were polite and helpful, as was a Community Relations Advisor in our email exchanges.
However, I have now run in to one of those faceless, self important bureaucrats, otherwise known as a brick wall, that one sometimes encounters in these big organisations. Below is an email response this person sent to me tonight (Tues) and I think most reasonable people would find its tone extremely high handed and completely dismissive of the concerns that I have raised on behalf of Spalding residents.
Dear Mr Gambba –Jones
Thank you for your comments on the replacement steppingstones footbridge which is a standard design used extensively across the infrastructure.
Regarding time scales for a response to your queries.
I will be in a position to respond regarding the weep holes in 2 weeks
Regarding the lighting I would suggest you note my earlier comments, the light is the responsibility of The Council, Network Rail has no obligation to light public footpaths, you should make contact with the relevant Highway Department, neither am I prepared to permit you sight of agreements between Network Rail and The Council without a formal request from the relevant party in The Council.
Should the Council wish to access Network Rail land to repair this light arrangements can be made through our Asset Protection team, again I would be happy to provide them with a contact on request.
Regards *** ***** (name removed to protect the guilty)
Having re-read this person’s email (note that I’m avoiding any reference to their gender), I actually find their tone pompous, arrogant and mildly offensive and can almost picture them at their desk in a stiff, anal retentive posture, punching out this dismissive missive.
This individual has obviously failed to catch the drift of David Cameron’s Big Society and its drive to give local people the backing to make a difference in their communities.
Not to be beaten on this (yet) I have now contacted a colleague at the county council, to get their view on these issues. I will update this blog with any outcomes in due course.
Meanwhile, if anybody else wishes to annoy Network Rail and let them know of their dis-satisfaction with this bridge, please feel free.
Network Rail National Helpline 08457 114141. The reference number to use, if they ask, is: 2779146. Or you could start your own complaint and get a new number.