|Furnace Green/Maidenbower tunnel in late December|
What hasn't been a success story in reducing the scale of flooding is the main tunnel (actually a bridge) linking Furnace Green and Maidenbower. This has flooded before during very wet weather but would usually drain away within a day or so. It was an occasional problem. The widening of the tunnel combined with the record rainfall appears to have conspired to keep the tunnel flooded for nearly all of the last eight weeks. It has been pumped out twice but the sheer amount of water in the ground and the relentless rain keep filling it up, although I haven't since seen it as bad as it was at the end of December/early January when I took the above photo.
Myself and colleagues, including fellow Furnace Green Councillor Carol Eade and Henry Smith MP, have been concerned at the length of time this has been going on, and have been liaising with West Sussex County Council, Crawley Borough Council and Network Rail for some time. It has been quite complicated regarding who has responsibility for what. We all want a long-term solution and all have been working for that aim.
The good news is that we do have a way forward. Network Rail's contractor Volker Fitzpatrick (who did the work to widen the tunnel) have offered to implement a drainage scheme as soon as possible, and West Sussex County Council and Crawley Borough Council are co-operating with this. The plan is to start early next week and have it completed by the 21st of February. I do not have more details at present but will update this blog post as and when I have them. We will also need to sort out who has legal responsibility for future maintenance, but both Councils and Network Rail are keen to get that resolved.
In the short term, more bad weather is forecast and more flooding may happen, but this will get sorted. I can't guarantee that once the work is done, it will never flood again, but hopefully it will be the exception rather than the rule, and having it flooded for weeks should be a thing of the past.