Many residents in the South Wimbledon area have contacted me and Cllr Nigel Benbow to express their frustration about the way the gas works are being managed. There are also worries from Pelham Primary School parents about air quality which I have raised. I will be visiting the site soon with local residents.
Below is a response from Merton Council in response to these concerns.
I have also raised the lack of any public transport down the Broadway as the buses have been re-routed and requested a mini-bus service. Many elderly people rely on the buses to get from one end of the Broadway to another.
From Merton Council
I have copied all the residents that you have forward onto me, into this email and I hope that this response answers all the questions and concerns that have been raised.
The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has an iron gas main risk reduction enforcement policy which addresses the potential failure of ‘at risk’ iron gas mains. Old metal gas mains that have reached the end of their useful life need replacing with new yellow polyethylene (PE) plastic pipe. All cast iron gas pipes within 30 metres of a building are entered onto their risk register and monitored with a score continuously, once the gas pipe reaches its life span / score, that pipe then needs to be replaced to ensure SGN continue to provide a safe and reliable gas supply to the local area.
In 2009 the large diameter gas pipe in Merton Road / Merton High Street was identified as needing to be replaced given the condition and age of the pipe, however due to the location and the potential disruption, it was been deferred for the past 11 years. Unfortunately, this cast iron main is now at the top of SGN’s register with the highest risk score and if it is not replaced, SGN cannot guarantee against the risk of failure to the strategic main. A failure of this main would impact the highly populated local area significantly, involving an emergency road closure, potential evacuations and loss of supply – especially as we have entered the winter period and SGN’s need to increase the pressure through the pipe to guarantee gas supplies to properties in the area.
For those reasons, Merton has held several meetings with SGN’s senior management to discuss the necessary main replacement works. SGN initially requested to start the essential works imminently before Christmas however after careful consideration, Merton has granted the works to commence on Monday 20th January which will last approximately 12 weeks.
I appreciate all the comments regarding traffic already being bad, however this is being monitored by TfL as we have specified the use of UTC traffic lights (Urban Traffic Control). This means that TfL can control the green phase and how long each light remains on.
There are increased traffic flows in the remaining 3 directions; To ensure everyone’s safety around the works site, SGN need to close Merton Road to all motorists at this junction with a signed diversion in place for motorists. As part of SGN’s traffic management plan, it has been requested that additional traffic management measures are introduced including the reduction on the eastbound carriageway of Kingston Road to one lane on the approach to this junction which will allow SGN’s engineers to access the gas main safely. Pedestrian access and movements will be maintained and TfL buses have been fully consulted on this project. TfL are also monitoring and managing the traffic light timings in order to assist with keeping the network moving.
The traffic management set out reduces the lane widths not to locate the traffic management, but to enable the vehicles to make all the turns safely. Kingston Road approach to the junction is narrowed to ensure the safety zone around the work site is maintained to ensure a clean clear work site for the operatives. Morden Road approach is to enable the buses to make the left turn into Kingston Road, this was the recommendation from the TfL traffic Modellers along with multiple traffic management companies and from internal conversations in Merton Highways. Merton High Street is narrowed to one lane to ensure that traffic does not attempt to drive up the outside and turn right into Merton Road or cut back in causing frustration to those who waited patiently in the queue this will be monitored, and any adjustments that we can see that will improve this will be made.
We are working with the Traffic Management company to ensure that the extra signage we have requested is installed as quickly as possible.
Pelham Road is being used by a number of vehicles that have driven past the 6 Road Closure signs that are in place, as such we have requested extra signage along The Broadway, stating clearly that the road is closed to through traffic, and is for resident access only. However I must remind you that we aren’t able to physically stop cars from driving through, as those that choose to ignore the closure signs will get to Pelham Road and turn around or drive down Pelham Road to get back to a main road. We are monitoring this, and looking for other potential enforcement we can take on vehicles doing this, while being mindful that residents will still want to access their property and any enforcement could potentially affect residents unfairly. Suggestions have been made to close the road for anyone who is not a resident, this is not possible as there is an NHS Building along with 2 primary schools within the area and residents from neighbouring roads and within the catchment area for both the Schools and the Surgery require access.
The congestion caused by these works will inevitably cause some frustrations for local residents and the travelling public. Merton’s Street Works team will do it all it can to keep these works moving along however due to the location and number of vehicles using this junction daily, it is unfeasible for works to be performed without causing some impact to the travelling public.
In order to ensure that the most is made of this situation, Merton will be working in collaboration with SGN to perform a number of works and projects on Merton Road. We (Merton) will be carrying out projects to; drainage, lighting and highway improvement works, along with working with all other Statutory Undertakers and Utilities to complete as many other projects and works in the area that do not conflict.
With regards to stakeholder engagement, at the start of November, SGN issued a dedicated project leaflet which was hand delivered to 15,450 residential & business properties. Over 170 stakeholders were been informed of our forthcoming programme of works in October. Radio and social communication has been carried out by both Merton and SGN in the 2 weeks prior to the start date and will continue as works progress.
From a network and traffic management perspective, we truly appreciate the works SGN are carrying out will be highly disruptive to the local area. This location is highly congested at the best of times and is identified by Merton as a traffic sensitive area. Unfortunately these works need to be performed to ensure the safety and security not just for SGN’s gas services but to all the local residents of Wimbledon. SGN have given Merton assurances that they will get the works done as quickly as possible and return things to normal as quickly as they can, but of course that doesn’t mean compromising on safety – everyone’s safety is our number one priority.
It has been asked why 24 hour working hasn’t been requested however, this was proposed previously when works were being planned back in 2018 but a number of residents raised concerns about the noise going into the night. There is still a large number of residential properties in the local area who would be hugely affected by noise from 24 hour working and this was taken into consideration as part of the planning process.
Merton Road has pollution monitoring equipment at the junction of Merton High Street and Kingston Road. If there is an increase of pollution in the area of these works this will raise an alarm. Merton Council will then take advice from those monitoring the pollution on the best course of action
Finally I have attached the Traffic Management Drawing, as this was requested by a couple of residents.