'Is Thames Water fit for fixing Crouch End's 150 year-old sewer system?'
David Winskill, Crouch End campaigner
- Credit: David Winskill
A few months ago signage appeared announcing parking-bay suspensions on a long stretch of our road but, on the due day... nothing happened. At midday blokes in overalls arrived with blue barriers and signs declaring "emergency works" with the usual half-arsed apologies and assurances about improving “your” network.
In fact, Thames Water is owned by Kemble Water, described as “… institutional investors from Europe, Canada and Australia”.
After Thames Water (TW) unexpectedly closed the road, The W5 was diverted for just under a week.
The trench they dug was 18 inches wide and the spoil wouldn’t have half-filled a skip. Workmen (efficient, tidy, helpful) were on site for no more than eight hours.
On day three, Haringey Parking Officers arrived to issue tickets to residents who had the nerve to park on their own street. By the time they did, TW had reduced the size of the site but the prohibitions remained and cars parked many yards away from the trench were ticketed.
Early last month, a hundred yards up the road, TW repeated the process: barriers, bus diversion, parking suspension, ticketing and disruption.
The reason that day-long jobs stretched into a week is because TW has separate gangs for excavation, barriers and signage, and doing the actual work. They are deployed as they become available and tough on the communities who have to wait.
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Comforting to know that the prudent people of Paris, Toronto and Melbourne benefit from our minor inconveniences.
Infinitely more serious were the impacts of the July deluges. Many homes and businesses were flooded as surface water cascaded off Hampstead Heath and other open spaces: drain covers flew as foul water fountained out of control. Haringey was inundated with complaints about blocked gullies.
The Tideway project will alleviate the decades old scandal of raw sewage discharged into the Thames but the new threats from the climate emergency are fast becoming apparent.
TW was privatised in the 1980s and has paid out £billions to overseas investors: the Financial Times described the company as “… an experiment in complex financial engineering“.
Our 150 year-old sewer system has been neglected for decades and we urgently need a public review of fitness for purpose in a warming and wetter world.
We should be asking whether a company that suits itself on the small stuff is either competent or willing to face the challenges of the next 150 years.
David Winskill is a Crouch End campaigner.