Proximity to railway a problem?


Approximately 3 years ago a fairly straightforward crack appeared in a building that we manage and investigation concluded it to be subsidence which required rectification.

Work was undertaken to stabilise the building and repair internal damage, both to the common parts and leaseholders’ individual flats.

The fly in the ointment turned out to be the presence of a railway line within 20 metres of the side wall of the block. There was a large crack in this wall and some disturbance of brickwork and misalignment and work on the exterior was essential to complete the project.

The problem was that the railway line in question was a main railway line on which freight runs to and from Europe on a 24 hour a day basis. The proximity of that block to the railway line meant that there were potential issues with electric arc-ing (it was an electrified line) and in addition, there were concerns about the loading of the scaffolding that we were to erect on the railway embankment.

We were drawn into a world of negotiation with Network Rail, the like of which we have never seen before where design after design of scaffolding was submitted and refused consent until ultimately, we were able to design a scaffolding that could hang from the roof. The issue of arc-ing and security was paramount and we had to confirm that there would be 24-hour security on the site to prevent trespass, exceptionally strict controls of personnel and an enclosure to the scaffolding to ensure that no debris, tools, etc. could fall.

Eventually it was decided that the railway would have to be shut but the immense disruption costing hundreds of millions of pounds that this entails that Network Rail will not usually shut the railway unless there is an emergency. They do however have a number of built in slots within which they can facilitate work.

What should have been a straightforward job over one week thus extended to six months of seven-hour possessions from midnight from midnight on Saturday to 7:00 in the morning. Much of this time is taken up in ensuring that the health and safety requirements to commence work and close work are completed.

It looks like the work will now be completed by the summer and the block will be, once more, without issue – all in the day of a managing agent.