One of the biggest pains in the backside of last summer was having great chunks of my road, and neighbouring streets, closed off by Thames Water, which is engaged in a lengthy programme to replace worn-out mains across London. The work has been going on for at least two-and-a-half years, and last August was the time they finally entered my block of streets – just in time to screw traffic arrangements up for the new football season. I missed the worst of it by going away for a few weeks, but the unpredictable closures – and resulting havoc with the 380 bus service which winds through these streets were irritating to say the least.
All’s been fairly quiet over recent months – until last month the top of Victoria Way was closed without warning for more works, resulting in the aggravating closure of the bus stop on Charlton Road (with no arrangement to site a temporary one down the road). And then slowly, stealthily, without warning, the invading Thames Water army has returned. The 380 bus is diverted eastbound (with no “bus stop closed” hoods on the stops) and a middle chunk of Victoria Way has been taken over.
Today – the invading army moved down the hill. Without any advance warning whatsoever, car drivers in my street have been told to clear off and park somewhere else.
“If the cars won’t move, just start the roadworks around them,” seems to be the watchword here. But I’ve not had warning here of this, and nor did a chap I spoke to when I snapped the “clear off” notice stuck under his windscreen wipers.
With the usual genius timing, this comes the afternoon before the first Charlton Athletic home match of the new season – the first match at The Valley in three months – when fans will be squeezing into any free parking in Victoria Way they can find. It’s not going to be pleasant out there at 2pm tomorrow.
The annoying thing is the lack of warning or notice about these works. Thames Water aren’t bothering sharing their plans with residents, so nobody knows what’s happening next – although from today’s movement it looks as if the mains are going to be replaced in all of Victoria Way.
Thames Water’s communications with residents have been poor. When this was all announced in 2008, there was a consultation meeting, but held at a time when many people would have been either at work or coming home from work. There’s not been a follow-up since. The company was kind enough to stick a note through the door last year – and one again to warn of when the water mains were being switched over. But that hasn’t been happening this year.
In fact, Thames Water’s website doesn’t even list the Victoria Way works. And looking at the notices being placed by contractor Skanska, it doesn’t seem to be taking talking to residents seriously – if that work was finished in May 2010, why are they still there now?
It’s all just crap – being mucked around by a private monopoly which has the power to create havoc without consulting those affected. Of course the water mains have to be replaced – and it’s a long-overdue job, too – but not even bothering to warn people that they’ll have to move their cars isn’t a way to go around winning friends.
Last summer when this happened, I was relieved to have made plans to be away when the diggers came in. No such luck this month for me – looks like I’m just going to have to lump it, and develop my mind-reading skills so I can guess what Thames Water are up to next…