Select Committee on the Crossrail Bill Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witnesses (Questions 5260 - 5279)

  5260. MS LIEVEN: Certainly, my Lord. I do not know the number off the top of my head but perhaps I could write that down and ask those behind me to deal with it.

  5261. LORD JAMES OF BLACKHEATH: You will not lose track of it, will you? We are at the stage where we need to know.

  5262. MS LIEVEN: I absolutely will not lose track of it, my Lords. Perhaps at that stage I can hand over to Ms Singleton.

  5263. MS SINGLETON: Thank you very much. I would like to start off by talking about Durward Street and the background to the street. It is a very, very old street—probably one of the oldest in Whitechapel. It was originally known as Ducking Pond Row and it went through a couple of other names, of which Bucks Row was one. It has, sadly, not had a good reputation, because it was the street in which the first Whitechapel Murder was committed in 1888; however, it has had a complete makeover since then and almost every building, except Trinity Hall, the old school house, has been demolished. It was reborn in the early 1990s with the Sainsbury's site at one end, Swanlea School, Kempton Court coming along next in 1996, and the Whitechapel Leisure Centre. At the same time as Kempton Court was developed, Trinity Hall was redeveloped as 18 flats. At the west end of Durward Street the whole housing association set of flats and houses was redeveloped, so it is almost a new street, if you like, on the old street.

  5264. When we moved in in 1996 it was a very quiet street, but it was a busy pedestrian street because it was the route from Spitalfields to Whitechapel without having to go down to the main street and it was also the direct route to Sainsbury's supermarket. At the time there was no hint of Crossrail whatsoever, although I think I was aware that there was a plan for an east-west train service. Next we heard that there would be a train emerging somewhere near Brick Lane but it was of no concern to us particularly. Then we heard that there would be a tunnel under Whitechapel, with the station on the corner of Cambridge Heath Road, and that was to be a separate station altogether, with no connection to the Whitechapel Station. That was the beginning of when of our concerns were raised because we would be above the tunnel. Subsequently the plans became much greater and we learned there would be a station at Whitechapel with the exit and entrance from Court Street and then subsequently Fulbourne Street. I have to say that we only discovered that we would have a worksite in Kempton Court as a result of reading a leaflet given out at a consultation in Whitechapel. We had no idea that work would have such an impact on us, that even within our development we would have a worksite.

  5265. It would have been very easy to sell up and run at this stage because it looked such a ghastly amount of work, but we love living in Kempton Court. Many of the original residents are still there as owner/occupiers, and they certainly do not let go of their property if they have had to move out—as people change jobs and get married they might wish to move somewhere else—because they all harbour the hope that one day they will come back there. It is such a convenient place. Within Kempton Court we have such pleasant conditions: lovely gardens and trees. It is a haven for wildlife and we have a tremendous amount of bird life. It is a very enjoyable place to be. It is also a very annoying place, because, as you will have seen, Whitechapel Market is quite a difficult place to walk along: you have to walk along the avenues of illegal DVD sellers and so on. Nevertheless, it is a very attractive area to live in and so convenient to move in and to get about, and that is why we are still there, but we wish to make sure the conditions for us are as best as possible while Crossrail is being built so that we do not find ourselves fairly depressed, querying why we did not cut and run.

  5266. We have had several instances recently of disruptive experience—and one is going on right at the moment which I will come back to—and this shows the impact of construction work. It is the enormity in one street of having two major worksites. There will be the hole that will be dug in the Sainsbury's car park, 45 feet across and 90 feet deep, with all the piling, ventilation shaft, craning and so on that will go on. That will be where the station will be dug from—in this case it is not being tunnelled, it is being dug by machine and hand, if you like. At the other end, just on the other side of Trinity Hall, will be another enormous worksite, again down 90 feet. All around that site will have to be piled. The ventilation shaft and escape safety shaft will also be piled—it will not be as large as the other two holes but, again, a pretty big hole and that will have to be piled as well. That leaves the fourth site, which is in our car park, where, again, it is piling and work on the wall of the East London Line. I have been led to understand that it could be over several periods, but up to a year overall. It will cause a tremendous amount of disruption. We will be on a worksite for nine years. I know that sounds a long time, but works have already started in the street—and I will come back to that.

  5267. Last Thursday I met with many of the planners and the engineers and staff from Crossrail and the designers as well. This was a very useful meeting. Many of my concerns were addressed satisfactorily—and I will outline these briefly so that we have the assurances we need—but, regrettably, I did not know that the station had been redesigned. It does look like a more satisfactory design and it may even take less time.

  5268. We have concerns about the structure under Kempton Court because it is built on piles. Although there are mentions throughout the document that Crossrail would be following the most recent techniques, as developed by the CTRL, the Jubilee Line and so on, I could not see anything said about noise levels when the train stops and starts in a station which is below piles. I did ask for information about this. They assured me that in fact there should be less noise than a train that goes straight through. This is important because there are at least ten ground-floor flats that might be very well affected by this noise and there is also the rape crisis centre which is housed in part of the commercial ground floor in Brady Street.

  5269. We are also concerned about the noise from the completed ventilation shaft, particularly as we recently suffered a high level of noise from works done at the Sainsbury's supermarket, which ran their ventilation all night and made it impossible to sleep or sit in one's sitting room if it was facing in that direction.

  5270. CHAIRMAN: Is that caused by their refrigeration arrangements?

  5271. MS SINGLETON: No. They were doing internal works. I believe at certain times they would have to turn off the electrical systems and therefore they must have ventilation at its highest level—so it was the whole ventilation system working at its highest level. It did sound a bit like a train coming through with a whining noise. It was absolutely horrendous. Despite the fact that we protested, it continued for a week.

  5272. CHAIRMAN: That has happened already, has it?

  5273. MS SINGLETON: That has happened already.

  5274. CHAIRMAN: Is it going on now?

  5275. MS SINGLETON: It has stopped. It occasionally happens for a short period during the night now but, on the whole, the supermarket is up and running so it is not the problem that it was. I am assured that Crossrail have a different ventilation system, that it will not be operating all the time and that the only noise that we are likely to hear most of the time is the noise of the circulation wind on the fans as a natural point, but I would like assurance on this.

  5276. The circulation and route and the number of lorries was discussed in the House of Commons; however, there are some points I would ask Crossrail to consider. One of the things is that since Sainsbury's has been enlarged—and it reopened in October last year—the whole way that pedestrians walk along Durward Street has changed. First of all, the original pedestrian entrance was on the north side of Durward Street, so they came out of Sainsbury's, crossed on the north side and then walked along, right beside Swanlea School. The new entrance/exit is to the south of Durward Street, so now people walk across Brady Street and into Durward Street on the south side, where Kempton Court is. That means that all lorry movements will be crossing over the pedestrian area, where they cross from Sainsbury's to Durward Street. There are far more pedestrians now than there used to be. With an enlarged supermarket there are increasing amounts of patrons and, also, the very fact that they are walking outside Kempton Court, which in places is only four feet from the street, means that there will undoubtedly be conflicts with the lorries. If there are 60 lorries going up Brady Street and turning into Durward Street, taking an hour out of the ten-hour day for the school period when lorries are not able to go, that means over the nine-hour period there will be a lorry, say, every eight minutes or so crossing into Durward Street. It really needs some consideration. I do not see how it can change now because they have put the cash ATM machines up where the exit was.

  5277. The other thing that goes with that is the narrowness of the street. At the moment we are having a tremendous amount of problems because the East London Line has taken over the site in Essex Wharf that will eventually be used as the ventilation shaft on that site. I have not been able to find out whether they are following the Construction Code practices or not but we are having tremendous difficulties in the street with lorries. For instance, lorries arrived this morning from quarter-past six and they backed up in a taxi arrangement. The sixth lorry, which could not get into Durward Street or only a short distance, reversed back. Because Brady Street is so restricted now, there had to be a whole series of reversing before the lorry could go out and park in Brady Street. When the lorries are either coming in or out, neither way can they at the moment get into the street without reversing. This is because there was some work done in conjunction with the Sainsbury's entrance. I do ask that the whole entrance to Durward Street and the work in Brady Street is looked at very carefully to ensure that there are better arrangements at getting into Durward Street. When I look out my window I see pedestrians walking directly behind lorries with their bleepers going and it is as if they are impervious to the fact that lorries are coming there, and cyclists belting around the front. It is very dangerous. Unless it is managed very well over the period of Crossrail construction, one has to assume there could be serious injury. When they are coming into the street now they have to drive up on the four feet of pavement in Durward Street. There needs to be a good amount of work done there.

  5278. One of the points I would like to make—and I know Jil Cove said this—is that in the whole process of looking at the Construction Code and all the works there are people at the end of it: there are pedestrians, there are school children, there are residents. Sometimes I feel we have been lost in the process.

  5279. I did have concerns about the accessibility from Whitechapel Station, particularly to the East London Line. Under the previous station plan I was informed that, although there would be relatively easy access to the northbound line, it would be very difficult to get on to the southbound line of the East London Line. The southbound line is the local line really on the East London Line. It is used constantly by people who have come to the market, bought six mangoes and whatever else and are carrying heavy bundles down on to the line. They would have had the long walk to the main entrance and then almost the same walk back to get to the East London Line. The question was asked as to how far it is to the main station entrance. It is 360 steps, my steps, from what is the entrance now to the Whitechapel Station and the new station in Fulbourne Street.

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