Click to read Network Rail’s unacceptable response regarding Streatham Vale

Further to my meeting with some of Network Rail’s Senior Officials on Wednesday, I have received the email below. I am sure constituents will appreciate that, as a substantive reply, their email is nowhere near acceptable, and will not provide the relief the local area deserves.  My response to Network Rail’s email today is immediately underneath.

Chuka.

Network Rail’s latest email:

“Thank you for your patience in waiting for this response. As promised, I wanted to come back to you today to update you on our progress in addressing the concerns that you raised with us at our meeting on Wednesday. As we acknowledged during our meeting, we fully recognise that our engagement with the community and particularly local businesses ahead of our work at Streatham Common did not meet the standards that we aspire to. We are grateful for the recognition that the work itself will deliver significant benefits for the area but we absolutely recognise the disruption it is causing and we are committed to being as responsive as we can from this point forward.

When we met you raised the issue of financial compensation for local businesses. As we set out in our meeting, we do not routinely provide compensation to businesses affected by our work sites unless we are legally obliged to do so. We did however undertake to supply our claim form and the accompanying cover letter in order that businesses who feel they may be entitled to compensation can apply. These are attached. At your request we also undertook to provide a single point of contact for local businesses seeking compensation. This contact is [Network Rail officer], who has agreed to handle all claims from businesses affected by this work. [Our Network Rail officer] can be contacted at [email].I hope you will understand that I am not in a position to offer any guarantees on this matter but the claims we receive will be helpful in allowing us to judge the extent of the impact our work is having and highlighting where mitigation measures may be most valuable.

We are, however, sympathetic to the situation that the local businesses in Streatham are in and, if there are any other measures that businesses feel we can take to help then we would, of course consider them. Over the weekend posters will also go up at the station to inform people that the businesses on Greyhound Lane are open as usual in order to encourage as much passing foot traffic as possible. I recognise that this is a very small measure but I hope it is helpful. Further to your advice, our project team have also now been in touch with Woodmansterne Primary School, in addition to Granton Primary School to discuss what we could do to reduce the impact of disruption for pupils and parents.

Turning to the other issues that you raised with us, including the need for an apology to the community for our unacceptable lack of engagement before the works began, I can confirm that a letter of apology will be issued next week. This will also include an invitation to another public meeting in December that we have now arranged to offer local people a chance to raise concerns and be updated on our work.

Finally, you raised with us the issue of over-crowded shuttle buses at peak times before and after school. We have subsequently asked Transport for London to supply us with data about the general usage of the shuttle buses and we are looking at the feasibility of running additional services before and after school.

I recognise that the above is very much the beginning of our work to rectify our earlier lack of engagement on this work and would like to reiterate our commitment to communicating better with the local community throughout the work. I will, of course, continue to keep you updated on progress.”

My Response:

Thank you for your email which I am afraid to say is not at all satisfactory.  I have a number of questions at first reading:

  1. Can you confirm this is the correct form?  It seems to be targeted towards a specific accident or incident and refer to lost goods rather than lost trade.  This form will be very hard for the businesses to engage with meaningfully.  Can you confirm this is the same form completed by larger companies in the affected area?  In the circumstances, could you explain why this form has been felt most appropriate rather than one far more suited to the situation faced by the shops?
  2. Although you do not usually compensate where not legally obliged to do so, the impression given at our meeting was that if businesses can demonstrate they have suffered a loss due to the works you would look to compensate.  The email below seems simply to suggest that you are committed to providing a claim form, but suggests you will only compensate when legally obliged to do so (regardless of whether the businesses have suffered a loss as a result of the works). I would be grateful for immediate clarification.
  3. In the meeting I asked for a commitment regarding the timeframe in which the claims from the businesses would be processed.  The letter attached suggests the forms would be acknowledged within 14 days (which is an excessive wait for an acknowledgement in these circumstances) and gives no further indication of timetable.  Can you confirm how long the claims will take to be acknowledged and processed?
  4. The letter asks for proof of loss in the form of “invoices, receipts, [and] quotations”.  I presume in cases such as this, when it is loss of trade that is the issue, it is proof of previous and current trading figures that are required – as I’m not sure how invoices, receipts or quotations would be applicable. Again, it would be helpful if you could provide further information that will allow the shops to understand what they are being asked and make a claim.
  5. Another issue discussed at the meeting was the criteria Network Rail intend to use to assess the level of compensation; would it be possible to provide full details of this?
  6. Could you please provide a phone contact for [your Network Rail officer] in order for the shops to contact [your Network Rail officer] by phone? I know that some of the local businesses do not use email.

I look forward to hearing from you urgently, as the information emailed and attached to the email does not reflect our meeting earlier in the week and seems in no way adequate to help the businesses in claiming compensation for their losses, nor does it reflect the gravity of the situation they are facing.

Kind regards,

Chuka