Network Rail CEO Asked to Act on Putney Station 'Shambles'

Council say they have been 'badly let down' by rail company staff

Network Rail blames 'technical & operational issues'

When will it be completed?

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A renewed row into the slow progress of the improvement work at Putney Station has blown up. Wandsworth Council have written a strongly worded letter to Network Rail’s chief executive Mark Carne expressing“extreme disappointment and frustration” with the delays.

The Council say they were prompted to write to the chief executive after they felt they were very badly let down by other senior managers within the company who they accuse of failing to get to grips with the situation.

In his letter to Mr Carne, the council’s cabinet member for community services Jonathan Cook said: “I would be grateful if you would investigate why we have had to endure this shambolic process and use your influence to bring this project to a speedy conclusion.”

The completion date given in Network Rail publicity for the works to upgrade the station was March 2014 when the project was initiated in 2012. Since then the use of a temporary footbridge has meant a much longer walk and additional footsteps to reach platforms.

Cllr Cook told Network Rail: “I am writing to express the Council’s extreme disappointment and frustration with the delays and numerous missed deadlines for completing the upgrade works at this station. What should have been a good news story at the beginning of this year has turned into a tale of misery for our residents and workers.

“We have been particularly frustrated by Network Rail’s seeming inability to provide a clear timetable for their work when it became very apparent that original deadlines were not going to be met. The same problem had arisen with your earlier works at Earlsfield Station, and it was our understanding from your colleagues that the Earlsfield experience would not be repeated at Putney, particularly the shortage of public information for station users. Regretfully, this has not happened."

The deadline for completion of work first got extended from March to July 2014, and in June the Council were assured that the work would still be finished by the end of July, despite there being no sub-station installed to provide power for the lifts. Then in August, at a meeting between Network Rail, members of the Council and Putney MP Justine Greening, it was stated that the lifts would be available from 15th September, and fully operational by the end of October when the sub-station work was expected to be completed. The ticket barriers were also supposed to be moved by early September, and the passenger information screens fully operational in the same timescale. Attendees at the meeting were also advised that a phase 2 would start in January 2015, to include an improved frontage, new canopy over Platform 1, movement of the ticket office and ticket machines, and improved retail experience.

Cllr Cook lists a number of areas of concern including the suggestion that the station appears to have been “designed on the hoof”, with no clear overall timetable. The Council were informed belatedly of the need to remove a shop unit from Putney High Street to allow the installation of an electricity sub-station the need for which they feel should have been identified in the planning stage.

He believes that there is a lack of a clear plan for step-free access into the street, even at this late stage, notwithstanding the Council’s suggestion of raising levels across the forecourt. The Council’s plan was submitted Network Rail's Outside Parties Team many months ago. Cllr Cook claims that this team appears to be totally disconnected from the station project, and operating to a different agenda from the rest of Network Rail.

He also points out that the continuing lack of live train information in the booking hall for passengers has been made worse by the windows of the footbridge being covered with an opaque film to stop passengers viewing the platforms to see where to expect the next train.

In addition the canopy over the main London-bound platform has been removed to facilitate the works, and the original intention of replacing this in January has now been delayed, so that most peak hour commuters will have to wait in the open throughout the coming winter.

As yet there has been no indication that Mr Carne has replied to the letter but a spokesperson for Network Rail said, ""Putney station is much-improved with a new concourse, which has been open for several months, and lifts. This will mark the culmination of £9m of improvement work, on top of previously-completed platform lengthening to facilitate the running of longer trains.

"A further package of improvements, which received funding-approval in March this year, is currently being designed. These will include improvements to the ticket facilities, retail offering and the appearance of the station façade.

"We are working closely with Wandsworth Council on planned improvements to the pavements to provide better access to the station. There are engineering considerations that we need to complete before any work starts, because of the age and nature of the bridge structure below."

Cllr Cook added: “Unfortunately it is our residents who are paying the price for this unsatisfactory performance and we do not intend to stand idly by while this is happening. Our job is to stand up for our residents and ensure their concerns are properly addressed."

November 7, 2014