From trying to ensure adherence to environmental standards over vegetation management along the embankment, to needing to explore the future of the former Station building on the bridge at Nithsdale Road, the Strathbungo Society has continued to correspond with Network Rail to explore what is planned in the area. Network Rail have been slow to respond, and not always fully forthcoming about either their intentions or timescales. Here we summarise the information that we have been able to gain as we believe that the Strathbungo community has the right to the information.
We Will Get Cleaner Air and Better Transport
There is good news. Electrification of the line between Central Station and East Kilbride has been given the go-ahead by the Scottish Government and is included in the current work programme. For anyone concerned with a cleaner, greener Scotland, this is welcome. Diesel power is responsible for toxic emissions including dioxides and particulates, pollutants with proven effects on health. Electrification will also mean a more reliable service for those who use the rail network.
We have asked Network Rail to provide a project plan and timescales for the work. Strangely, for a major engineering project, we are told that this “will not be available till June 2021.” But while there is no public project plan, we have been given dates for various phases and stages of the work.
Strathbungo Station Building
The Society had applied to Historic Environment Scotland for a listing for the Station building, owned by Network Rail, to provide some protection and maintain it for the area. This was rejected, on the basis that nothing remained of the historic interior. Yet while the building operated as a shop, residents from the Bungo had seen behind the shop facade to historic woodwork and other artefacts. Over a year from its closure, the building had been left to become dilapidated. It is little wonder therefore that the City Council have given permission for its demolition. This is due to take place in February 2022, a loss of a piece of Strathbungo’s past.
However, we have also asked about what is planned for the road bridge that the building stands on. This bridge is already not fit for purpose, as there have been weight restrictions and traffic management measures along its length for at least the past twenty years. Previous conversations with Network Rail have questioned its viability under the electrification scheme. We have asked that Network Rail start a dialogue with local community about the options for this. Will it stay or will it go? And if it goes, what will replace it?
Moray Place Footbridge
Electrified lines have different, indeed higher, safety standards to those that currently operate on the diesel line. We have been told that on those standards the current footbridge is ‘non compliant’ but we have requested a fuller explanation as to how it fails them. This means however that the current historic bridge will be no more.
The welcome news is that there is a commitment that our footbridge will be replaced and that the local community, presumably Strathbungo, and the Strathbungo Society, will be consulted. Network Rail propose to present us with design proposals by June 2021. These designs will be presented despite having no parameters from the community about our expectations. For example, does a new bridge have to be in the same location as the current one? Spacing it further along Moray Place might be more advantageous to the local community. The Network Rail approach does not inspire confidence that we will be presented with design proposals appropriate to a conservation area.
Network Rail have only recently informed us that site “investigation and piling” along the line are “due for completion in Spring 2021”. There are major concerns as to the effects of pile driving on the local area. Moray Place is close to the rail line throughout its length, and the majority of properties in the area are over 150 years old and built on extremely shallow foundations. Pile driving creates more than noise – though we do not underestimate the problems noise is likely to cause. It creates vibrations and properties that are elderly and fragile in a conservation area are likely to be more vulnerable to damage.
In this area we have experience of such major works, when Scottish Water were responsible for the construction of Glasgow’s super sewer that went through this area along Titwood Road, involving similar works. We have requested that Network Rail adhere to the same standards as that public body, namely
- A pre-works survey of properties along that side of the track – not simply on Moray Place itself but in the squares and tenements that intersect with Moray Place.
- A risk assessment of the project available to all property owners in the area under discussion
- Ongoing monitoring of those properties throughout the project
- A commitment on the part of Network Rail to assume liability for any damages and for the remedy of these
Will Network Rail make these commitments to the Strathbungo community before works commence? We have asked for a prompt response.
We would also want timely information at least 14 days before any works commence to ensure that we can publicise that noise pollution and considerable disruption is to be expected.
All of this suggests that Network Rail need to engage in a meaningful public consultation now, not at some point in the future when decisions will obviously already have been taken. This would involve not just the Society but the wider community – and the sooner the better.
Contributions to this debate are welcome here on the blog, and more detailed consultations on the proposals will hopefully follow.
But your Society Needs You
Calling any engineers, architects, surveyors or anyone else with experience who can help with evaluating these project plans and finding alternatives. Assessing Network Rail’s proposals and suggesting alternatives needs expertise.
If you want to know more about the issues around electrification, read this Network Rail guide to electrification. Chapters 11 to 13 cover the issues around clearances and existing structures.