Terry O'Sullivan, who lives on Hoppers Road, writes about his experiences dealing with Network Rail and what he thinks is their agenda.
I keep seeing references in the various email to NR wanting to upgrade the Hertford North loop to take heavy freight traffic . I have lived in Hoppers road since 1980 and the fact is that this has already been done .
When I first moved here the only heavy traffic on the loop was that which had been diverted due to work on the main line and was quite a rarity . Today If you sit in my garden you can set your watch by frequency of these heavy goods trains virtually every hour seven days a week , 24 hours a day. The only good news is that the speed is currently being kept low.
I suspect the purpose of any further upgrade work will be to allow a further increase in traffic and the speed of the trains .
As far as my neighbour can tell, (and from his own knowledge of projects in Ireland) rail organisations throughout Europe are subject to the EU legislation requiring MAJOR INFRASTRUCTURE PROJECTS to be subject to professional Environmental Impact Assessments as part of the planning process but that Network Rail may be getting round this by disguising a major line upgrading of passenger lines to freight traffic as a series of minor maintenance works which fall outside this EU legislation.
Political parties of both persuasions are keen to increase rail traffic at the lowest cost hence they are unlikely to challenge NR in the courts in what I believe would be a lengthy and costly legal battle.
The Grange Park and Winchmore Hill so-called maintenance projects like many others around the country have been treated as separate mini projects being opposed by a bunch of nimbies, rather than as part of a single major project, thereby falling outside any EU legislation
In the early days all attempts by a few of us in Winchmore Hill to contact other groups around the UK failed because the others had all been worn down by the lack of support particularly from their politicians and their local authorities .
The bottom line is there is no network of opposition groups willing or able to take on NR who invariably sneak up in the middle of the night and commence cutting the vegetation clearance before the residents are aware of the work being undertaken.
I have noticed that a large number of trees on the embankment at Edmonton (Liverpool St. line ) have been felled and a large area of vegetation has been cleared along tracks from Bowes Park towards the City but I do not know of any opposition groups.
When the NR started to clear the trees in Winchmore Hill almost 3 years ago, there was little interest from anybody not even my neighbours or our neighbours in Grange Park basically because so few people were affected. I am not blaming any one, its just the reality of the situation and the fact that few of us have homes that are directly effected by the work .
In August Denise Thompson, Network Rail's Community Relations Manager, stated in an email to me that NR intended to return at some time in the future to renew the track through the Winchmore Hill section .Again which will probably involve tree felling but there is no date or time given probably to catch us unawares. To quote:
" Dear Mr. Sullivan,
Thank you for your email about the track renewal work taking place on the Hertford Line. Reading your email it appears that there is some confusion about what work is taking place.
The track renewal work is part of Network Rail’s commitment to your local railway to provide a safe a reliable railway for the benefit of the travelling public. Network Rail is charged with operating, maintaining and enhancing Britain’s infrastructure and the proposed track renewal work is part of that obligation.
Over 3000 letters are being delivered by Royal Mail to residents who live along the Hertford line- the letters contain dates and times of when we will be working along with a brief description of the type of work which is taking place (re railing, re sleeper and re ballasting) the follow up works relate to routine maintenance carried out after track works and include a moving engineering train called a tamper, which packs ( or tamps) the track ballast under the railway tracks to make them more durable and creating a smoother and quieter ride for passengers.
I must reassure you that this track renewal work does not include any vegetation work. We are not working through Grange Park station (just working to the north and south of the station) due to the contamination of Japanese Knotweed in the track ballast. Japanese Knotweed is an invasive weed which requires a three year treatment programme to eradicate.
The railway is a 24 hour a day, 365 day a year operation and involves a large network with over 20,000 miles of track, 40,000 bridges and tunnels and 9,000 level crossings We have to work on the infrastructure so we can run a safe and reliable rail network for passengers. We do endeavour to pre notify our lineside neighbors in advance of planned work however for the many thousands of cases of maintenance work taking place weekly ( ncluding emergency repairs, moving works and general upkeep) it is not possible for us to always tell people who live nearby. Maintenance work takes place every day and night of the year and with over 5 million residents living alongside the railway, it makes it impractical to give advance notice to all people affected by every job.
We have previously assured residents along the Hertford line that no further vegetation works will take place without prior discussion with the local community and we will continue to abide by that commitment.
I do hope that this information is useful.
Community Relations Manager LNE "
I suspect NR intend to return to finish the job in Winchmore Hill soon and hope to take the small band of residents who are concerned about the environment by surprise as they did before. Do we then form another action group ? what happens when NR move on to Crewes Hill and Cuffley. ?
Terry O'Sullivan, May 2012