15-Month Delay on Ardleigh Green Bridge – Response from Mayor of London
Following on from the announcement by Transport for London that the Ardleigh Green Bridge Replacement Project would over-run by 15 months, the Upminster & Cranham Residents’ Association wrote to the Mayor of London expressing the deep concerns of the community while setting out eight key questions. Below is the response received from the Office of the Mayor of London. The actual letter can be viewed at Ardleigh Green Bridge TfL Response.
The response is generally quite vague and gives no indication of the projected cost while confirming there will be no compensation available for nearby businesses and residents affected by the scheme.
We are now considering a response and happy to receive any useful thoughts.
Dear Councillor Barrett,
Ardleigh Green Bridge
Thank you for your letter of 26 June on behalf of the Upminster & Cranham Residents’ Association. I’m sorry I haven’t responded sooner.
I have considered each of your questions and have provided my responses to them below for ease.
- The explanation given that the delay is largely due to ‘complex demolition work that took longer than expected’ is completely inadequate and we ask for a much fuller explanation.
As you acknowledge in your letter, the scheme is complex, and presents a number of engineering and logistical challenges. The works associated with demolishing and rebuilding an antiquated structure in a poor state of repair are very complex. On this occasion, the planning proved insufficient and I am very sorry for the disruption this has caused to people living and travelling through the area. TfL has assured me that they have looked into what went wrong and that the lessons learned will be applied to this and other similar projects.
One of these lessons relates to demolition activity requiring possession of the railway line beneath the bridge. A series of 52-hour possessions of the line had been planned to carry out this work, and the ultimate completion date was based upon these plans. However, the works undertaken in November 2016 could not be completed within the expected timeframe. The programme for the project has therefore been re-planned, and this activity now takes place during 72-hour rail possessions. Unfortunately, there are very few 72-hour possessions available as they are only available over bank holiday weekends and need to avoid clashes with other critical works planned on the railway. The new completion date takes into account all of the necessary 72-hour possessions to allow the project to be completed.
- What measures are being taken to expedite the completion of the works rather than just quoting a 15-month delay?
Works to demolish and replace substantial sections of this road over rail bridge can only be carried out when TfL has possession of the railway lines that run beneath the bridge. TfL has worked closely with Network Rail to plan the 72-hour possessions as quickly as possible (bearing in mind possessions are also needed by Network Rail to carry out essential maintenance and by Crossrail for the testing of the new Elizabeth line trains). This partnership has helped to reduce what was initially expected to be an 18-month delay down to no more than 15 months. TfL and Network Rail continue to work together to identify opportunities to further reduce this delay. TfL also continues to work with the contractor to identify ways in which the work can be carried out differently to minimise disruption.
- Improving air quality is clearly a Mayoral priority, but the ongoing congestion because of these works is worsening the situation. What measures will be taken to mitigate against this?
It is worth noting that in the long term the project to replace the bridge will ultimately help to reduce disruption to local road journeys. By replacing the bridge TfL are ensuring that traffic will be able to flow along the A127 without the frequent lane closures to carry out maintenance and weight restrictions that would otherwise be required to be put in place over the ageing bridge. The traffic management installed on site during the project is designed to keep traffic moving and to maintain access along the A127. The alternative to this would have been to close the A127 entirely (between Gallows Corner and the junction of Squirrels Heath Road / Ardleigh Green Road) for the duration of the project, resulting in far greater long-term disruption to road users, including some residents having to take a very long diversion route in order to reach their homes. This level of disruption was deemed unacceptable by TfL and so the contraflow, while slower than when the road is fully open, represented the best available traffic management strategy.
In TfL’s London Streets Traffic Control Centre, they are able to monitor the road network 24 hours a day, seven days a week. They have access to around 5,000 CCTV cameras that let them see how traffic is flowing around the Capital. When congestion is seen on the roads TfL’s Traffic Controllers can temporarily change the timings of traffic lights to help reduce queues. They assure me they have been closely monitoring traffic on the A127 and the surrounding road network throughout construction and continue to optimise traffic signal timings to ensure traffic flows as smoothly as possible. The nature of the bridge replacement project means that some road closures are unavoidable. Wherever possible, TfL schedule closures to take place either overnight or at weekends when traffic flow is much lower. This helps to lessen the impact of road closures on peak weekday traffic.
In the meantime, and as an immediate response to your concerns, TfL have placed additional signage on site discouraging engine idling.
- The cost of the project was quoted as £32m, given the considerable delay what will be the eventual estimated cost of the project and how will this be funded?
The final cost of the bridge replacement project is not yet certain, as TfL are in discussions with the contractor. However, please be assured TfL are working to minimise the costs.
- What arrangements for compensation will be extended to our local businesses, particularly those on the A127, and residents who will have to endure a further 15 months of pollution, delay and inconvenience?
There is no general legal right to compensation in respect of roadworks carried out by a highway authority for the public benefit. This bridge is at the end of its useful life and is beyond simple repair. Not replacing the bridge would mean restricting the weight of vehicles and closing lanes to carry out maintenance, as I mentioned earlier, causing disruption in the future.
Aside from the inherent difficulties associated in quantifying perceived losses or impacts, any funding used for compensation would simply be taken directly from the money we have available for investment in improving highways; improvements that will reduce future disruption arising from works to utilities, improve the safety of this section of the A127 for all road users and create long-term economic benefits to local businesses and residents in the area, which far outweigh any disruption caused by these works.
- Given the considerable delay, how will this impact on the proposed improvement works at Gallows Corner (A127/A12)?
The Gallows Corner Gyratory project is currently at concept design stage. TfL are confident that the two schemes can be carried out together in a way that minimises disruption. TfL are planning to commence the detailed design for Gallows Corner in autumn 2017 to allow for a timely implementation.
- This junction is a vital route through our borough, carrying considerable amounts of traffic. The ongoing delays has created rat-runs in nearby residential roads creating significant inconvenience, pollution and increased traffic flow for residents to contend with. What measures will be put in place to mitigate against this inconvenience until the Spring of 2019?
In response to rat-running complaints, TfL have recently installed additional temporary ‘no left turn’ signs on the approach to Hubbards Close and will be working with the London Borough of Havering to renew the keep clear markings and signs on Whitelands Way to prevent any further rat-running. TfL will continue to review rat-running mitigation measures and will be grateful to receive details of any specific measures that may improve the situation.
- What lessons have been learnt from the failure to effectively Project Manage this scheme?
The bridge is an integral part of two transport networks (road and rail). It is ageing and deteriorating and the plans available to TfL’s project management team, which show the surrounding ground conditions, are not detailed and up to modern standards. On projects like this it isn’t always possible for TfL to predict what they will find until they get on site. As well as providing a challenge, these kinds of projects also provide an opportunity to learn more. Part of TfL’s project management process involves interrogating the processes undertaken throughout the life time of the project, recording all lessons learned, and sharing this with other project management teams across the organisation.
The lessons learned from the disrupted demolition in November 2016, which ultimately caused the delay to the programme of works, were already put into practice to ensure the successful completion of the demolition over the Early May Bank Holiday weekend earlier this year.
I hope this helps to address your constituents’ concerns. Please do not hesitate to contact me if you require any further information.
Director, Projects & Programmes,
Surface Transport Transport