Network Rail breaches conditions in Hitchin rail curve project

A NUMBER of conditions have been breached by Network Rail employees and its contractors while carrying out the multi-million pound Hitchin rail curve project.

Network Rail is in the process of creating a �62m rail flyover in Hitchin, to alleviate rail congestion.

In order to access the site, HGVs are supposed to follow an approved route, via Stotfold Road and Wilbury Hills Road between Hitchgin and Letchworth GC.

But, in a report commissioned by North Herts District Council’s planning control committee and Letchworth Wilbury councillor Gary Grindal, it has emerged that not only have a number of drivers been ignoring this instruction, there have been a number of other infringements too.

Disciplinary proceedings have been taken against drivers who have not adhered to the approved route, with the district council forced to request that Network Rail and contractors Hochtief monitor and enforce it.

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There have also been lorries, against planning conditions, arriving earlier than 7am, reported speeding, and a driver using a mobile phone and subsequently being banned from the site due to other infringements.

All of these infringements, according to the report, have had a detrimental effect on residents.

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Alan Hinchliffe, chairman of the Hillcrest Residents’ Association in Letchworth GC, said: “The lorries have not stuck to the designated route which has put Network Rail in the breach of the agreement. I followed a lorry the other day and he didn’t go the way he should have.

“The other day, an Arriva bus had to mount the pavement. All in all, things haven’t been too good.

“There have been some drivers that have been very good, but unfortunately there was more that weren’t obeying rules – using phones, eating while driving, and speeding.”

Although works have ceased for now, Network Rail will start bulkfilling soon, which will lead to an increase in HGVs.

Following concerns by residents, speed camera enforcement has been used in Stotfold Road with police considering enforcement in Wilbury Hills Road as well.

Ian Fullstone, NHDC’s head of development and building control, said: “The council will continue to work closely with Network Rail to ensure that future HGV movement has minimal impact on those who live near the construction site, and that it complies with safety requirements in accordance with various conditions of the planning permission.”

A spokesman from Network Rail said: “Every driver is briefed on our traffic management plans, which includes the route to and from the site, and we are working with our suppliers to ensure deliveries are made within the designated timeframes. All drivers have been reminded of these plans.

“If members of the public want to bring anything to our attention, they can contact the Network Rail helpline on 08457 114141.”

Meanwhile, an application to widen Wilbury Hills Road due to be heard tonight (Thursday) has been withdrawn.

Network Rail had submitted an application to ease the burden on the roads. But it was withdrawn this week following discussions between the chairman and vice chairman of NHDC’s planning control committee, and Herts Highways. It was withdrawn because Network Rail did not meet the secretary of state’s requirements.

Herts Highways, the Highways Agency, Herts Police, councillors and residents against the road widening were all due to make comments on the application at the meeting.

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