Tuesday, 4 February 2014

An End In Sight To The Flooded Furnace Green/Maidenbower Tunnel

Furnace Green/Maidenbower tunnel in late December
In December and January, we saw record amounts of rainfall in much of the south of England, including here in Crawley with about 400mm of rain in the two months. If you get the train from Crawley to Chichester, you will see plenty of land under water on the way. To give this some context, the average annual rainfall for Crawley is 746mm. Even if February only has average rainfall (which isn't looking likely) we will probably have had our wettest ever winter in over 100 years. There has been a lot of flooding problems at times, although the major works that has taken place across Crawley in the last few years, including Tilgate Park and Waterlea Meadow, has saved many homes from being flooded such as in Furnace Green. Of that I have absolutely no doubt.

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.


Duncan Crow said...

Update - Work to start on Monday the 12th of February and planned to last two weeks, the second week being half-term.

Fencing for pedestrian management and continued access will be set up on the first day.

Duncan Crow said...

I have posted this on the petition:

I have been very disappointed by the letters the school have sent out. The letter in January said that the local County Councillors had "been informed" by the school when the reality was that we were already working on a permanent solution, and the school knew this! The inference to be drawn was that we had been "infomed" but that we were indifferent to the plight of the local community and that we were doing nothing, which is the complete opposite of the truth.

I have spent a lot of time of effort (more than anybody else) in getting a solution and keeping residents informed and yet today's letter from the school fails to name me while naming others.

The Crawley Observer reporting is poor and fails to mention that a solution was in hand. Today they are still tweeting as though nothing is being done, despite the fact I posted my blog article on Tuesday and have been tweeting and Facebooking about the tunnel for several weeks - and yes, they do follow me on Twitter but again like the school, they write as if I have done nothing.

I am very pleased at the outcome but not impressed with how some people have presented it. Thanks again to Hiba for the petiton which was very helpful for Network Rail to see the depth of local concerns about how long this had been going on, although I must stress we had been working on this for some time.

Duncan Crow said...

I see the Crawley Observer have now finally caught up but like the school, have airbrushed me out the equation (now that they are aware a solution is starting next week) but no doubt I would have featured if the problem was still not resolved...

I am disappointed with both Oriel High and the Crawley Observer for their presentation.

Anonymous said...

This is very good to hear. Thank you!

Duncan Crow said...

I see the Crawley News has also airbrushed me out of the equation as being a key person who helped to get this resolved.

I also note that whenever there is a Crawley Borough Council press release with positive news that features me as the cabinet member for leisure and culture, the Crawley News also always seem to airbrush me out.

However, I'm not bitter and they are welcome to quote from my blog if they wish to.