More detail has been supplied by Network Rail which wants to use Hempstead Meadows Local Nature Reserve as a site access when it extends Uckfield railway station platform.
Proposals reported to Uckfield Town Council, which owns the reserve and had requested the information, include:
- A site compound 20 x 30m in the Waitrose car park.
- Installation of a five metre wide access path from the south east corner of the Waitrose car park running 160m along the southern boundary of the reserve.
- A ten metre wide area adjacent to the railway line to store materials.
- The construction of a new pedestrian footbridge to allow alternative access to the reserve
- Works anticipated to take 35 weeks to run from July 2015 to March 2016.
A survey has been carried out to identify the habitats and species within the area to be impacted by the works and makes recommendations for mitigation.
Network Rail favours the Hempstead Meadows access over other options which include access via Mill Lane, via Thorne Civil Engineering to the east of the station, or via land at the end of Alexandra Road.
They say delivery by rail is not practical for a variety of reasons, including disruption to the train service and difficulty in booking engineering trains which are a scarce resource and allocated to projects across the country on a priority basis.
Another reason is that the delivery of concrete, the primary material, cannot be made by rail because of the timescales required. Once batched, wet concrete only has a usable shelf life of two hours.
Closure of the railway station is ruled out because that would cause “significant” disruption to the passengers of Uckfield station and also those further up the line as services would need to be re-timetabled to take into account alternative locations for trains to terminate and turn back.
Waitrose car park
Having the compound in the Waitrose car park would be dependent on agreement from the supermarket.
If that is not possible then a report, submitted to the town council, says it could be located in the new station car park over the road “although this will at least double vehicle movements in the High Street as deliveries to the compound would then need to be taken by (likely smaller) vehicles over the road to the site access road”.
Network Rail says access via Waitrose and Hempstead Meadows is the best option available for works for the following reasons:
It will be significantly less disruptive to the businesses and residents of Mill Lane and the Roller Mill, particularly as the works would be carried out overnight and because enabling works required on the Mill Lane side – the installation of two temporary bridges – would need to take place before the site compound could be set up, meaning an earlier start date than July would be required.
There are fewer parties to negotiate with for the Hempstead Meadow route, in terms of setting up access agreements and managing the day-to-day relationships.
The junction of River Way and the High Street is wider and better suited to large delivery vehicles than the junction of Mill Lane and High Street, reducing the likelihood of disruption to High Street traffic as vehicles turn.
Network Rail says: “The construction works involved with creating an access via Hempstead Meadow are more costly than the works required on the Mill Lane side, but even taking this into account we believe the additional cost is outweighed by not disrupting the day-to-day activities of the Mill Lane residents for eight plus months.
Uckfield Town Council will consider the latest reports from Network Rail at a meeting of the environment and leisure committee which meets on Monday, March 30, at 6.45pm in the Council Chamber at Uckfield Civic Centre.
• Network Rail is planning to extend the Uckfield Railway Station platform by 48m to accommodate up to 12-car trains.
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