Village News - Railway
Railway electrificaton -
BRIDGE UPDATE - 24 February 2017
On the 2nd February 2017, Historic England Advisory Panel met to discuss the issues posed with electrification of the railway and the potential demolition of Steventon Railway Bridge.
The justification for demolition
If demolition is to be considered justified it has to be clear that this is the minimum necessary amount of harm in the circumstances in order to achieve electrification of the line. It is Historic England’s understanding that retaining the bridge is possible whilst also keeping the Causeway crossing open. The necessary minimum height of 5.6m at the crossing can be achieved by adopting a non-standard wire gradient of 1 in 400. However, this would mean closing the Stocks Lane crossing, where the clearance would be around 5.1m, to vehicular traffic. Fitting the wires under the bridge can be addressed by slewing the track. As this would not lower the track Historic England assume that drainage conditions (which they are aware are problematic at this location) would remain unchanged and therefore there is no greater risk of flooding.
However, Historic England are not yet convinced that retaining both the crossings and the bridge is out of the question. Network Rail’s own engineering advice suggests that a clearance lower than 5.6m may be acceptable if an agreement on this can be reached with the Rail Safety Standards Board (RSSB). Historic England have stated that Network Rail need to demonstrate that they have explored this possibility with the RSSB and received a firm indication that it is not possible before they could advise that there is a clear and convincing justification for demolition.
Historic England have indicated their disappointment that Network Rail did not undertake a robust enough technical investigation of this issues surrounding the bridge much earlier in the project, nor did they approach it in a more holistic way. The opportunity presented to close the crossings, which all are agreed is necessary in the long term, was not taken, the precise technical problems relating to the crossing were not properly understood until relatively late in the process and the issues surrounding the closure of Stocks Lane should have been investigated more thoroughly years ago.
Meanwhile we understand that Network Rail are to submit the Listed Building Consent application to demolish the Bridge, to the Vale Planning Officer early next month. A period of 2-3 months for public consultation, will then begin.
STEVENTON PARISH COUNCIL
BRIDGE UPDATE - January 2017
Steventon Parish Council (PC), Oxfordshire County Council (OCC) and Ed Vaizey’s assistant met with Network Rail (NR) on Monday 9th January to discuss the current position with regard to electrification of the railway in Steventon.
Ed Vaizey has had meetings with NR, the utility companies and Historic England. He reports:
- The bridge will be demolished and reconstructed;
- The road will be closed for at least 10 months;
- The utilities are happy to work together;
- Historic England are aware of the intended bridge demolition.
NR confirmed that Stocks Lane crossing will not be closed and that they are now only pursuing bridge demolition and reconstruction. Their baseline case is that the road will be closed for at least 10 months. However, it is hoped that cycle and pedestrian bridge access will be provided.
NR are to apply by the end of January 2017 to Historic England, and the Vale of White Horse District Council for approval to demolish the Grade II listed bridge. In their submission they will have to present a robust case including:
- Documentation that all credible options have been explored and evaluated by due process;
- The bridge has only a finite life.
A bridge survey by OCC in January 2016 showed that: “The bridge is in fair condition with some repairs necessary”. OCC reported that the bridge can be maintained on an annual basis.
The PC challenged the 10 month road closure and pressed for 4-6 month closure period. NR said they would try to reduce the closure time. However, the full detail of what is actually going to happen is still to be determined. It is likely that the decision will be known in May 2017. This will then define what happens next.
NETWORK RAIL - UPDATE - October
Steventon Parish Council Infrastructure Working Group (PCIWG) met with Network Rail (NR) and Oxfordshire County Council (OCC) on Monday 3rd October to establish what NR intentions are with regard to electrification of the railway in Steventon.
NR stated that the length of time taken to communicate with Steventon Parish Council (PC) since August 2015 was unfortunate and, with hindsight some communications on progress should have been communicated, but it didn’t happen. They stated that they had been working on options for Steventon but internal processes and personnel changes had led to delays.
The lack of communication within NR and with the PC was highlighted when NR said they were completely unaware of requests by the PC for information presented to the PCIWG in August 2015. This lack of supply of information has led to a potential option to close Stocks Lane crossing not being evaluated.
When challenged on providing justifications for dismissing options and handing over technical papers NR said all the reports are still in draft form and cannot be issued.
However, in the absence of any justifications NR stated that from their perspective there are only two options:
- Stopping up (closure) of Stocks Lane crossing;
- Demolition and reconstruction of the bridge.
NR asked what Steventon thought about demolition and reconstruction of the bridge. The consensus view was that in 2014 the single option presented of replacing the bridge was marred by the then 10 month period for all work to be done. This would have led to loss of businesses with no compensation and complete chaos with traffic movements around adjacent areas to Steventon. A shorter project time of 4-6 months would be considered tolerable.
The status of the bridge was considered. It was generally accepted that the bridge would have to be replaced within the near future (10-20 years) because of structural integrity issues. However, OCC would not commit to undergoing a structural integrity assessment. Keeping the bridge would be to the detriment of the conservation area south of the railway with catastrophic consequences to Mill Street and the Causeway.
NR then announced that they were going to apply to the Department of Transport (DfT) to stop up (close) Stocks Lane. NR explained that this was part of their process to “eliminate” an option. Objections to the application could lead to the application being rejected, thus supplying the justification to present to Historic England to grant demolition and reconstruction of the bridge. However, if the application is granted this takes precedent and Stocks Lane barrier will be closed. The possibility then remains that the bridge will still have to be replaced at a later date.
Subsequent to the meeting the following initiatives have emerged:
- Councillor Stewart Lilley is arranging for a structural integrity assessment to be made of Steventon Railway Bridge;
- Information requested from NR in August 2015 has been located by NR and forwarded to the PC;
- NR are now looking at the potential third option of lowering the track. We believe that lowering the track by 300mm at Stocks Lane would enable the barrier to remain open.
Whilst NR is evaluating the third option they will temporally put on hold the stop up application of Stocks Lane crossing.
If you have concerns and would like to express a view on this which affects all residents in Steventon then please write to:
firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org
If you do not use a computer then please ask the Parish Clerk for addresses.
STEVENTON PARISH COUNCIL
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