In the 1940s, the borough of Hornsey was wondering how to cope with the ballooning numbers of private cars crowding onto a Victorian network of narrow roads.

One of the worst pinch points was - and still is - in Crouch Hill between Christchurch Road and the Harringay Arms. The solution they came up with was the fabled Crouch End by-pass.

Although never built, it is possible to see its influence in the gently curved south face of Telecom House (now a block of flats). Traffic was to have taken a left off Crouch Hill, swept along the new road and continued its northward journey on Crouch End Hill.

It has become an annual event that a bit of Thames’ Water kit will burst or leak on this bit of Crouch Hill. Their cheery white vans park up and signs are erected, declaring without a hint of irony that they are “improving the network”.

Ham & High: David Winskill says that Thames Water visit Crouch Hill annual to make repairsDavid Winskill says that Thames Water visit Crouch Hill annual to make repairs (Image: Archant)

Next, the traffic management squad arrives and - depending on the complexity of the job - sets up temporary lights and, probably, a traffic diversion. Then the excavators expose the fault to let the engineers crack on with the repair. When complete, the process is reversed.

The latest excavation started at the end of January and lasted 11 days: the actual work probably could have been done in three, but Thames Water's scheduling of the various teams elongates the job: we have to wait for them to turn up, in the right sequence, to do their bit.

For decades, the question has been why not replace the decrepit pipes once and for all?

The Crouch End Traders wrote to Thames Water’s CEO to ask. The reply opened a window on the clarity of thought enjoyed by the top brass:

"To further explain, we analyse each of the assets on our risk register and we’ll prioritise our mains replacement projects based on the areas or assets most in need of investment and upgrading. This is not a quick process, and we must ensure we follow the correct processes when determining which assets require investment."

(Are you reading this Private Eye?)

In English, this means “Wait until we get round to it.”

Thames Water finished off with a cheery “I’m confident we’ve done all we can to help resolve this matter“.

So, until they do provide a proper resolution, expect more delayed buses, more nightmare journeys home, more frequent supply interruptions and unnecessarily higher bills.

If only Hornsey Council had built that bypass!

  • David Winskill is a Crouch End campaigner.