Council claims railway upgrade cancellation ‘will not impact …
Scheme designed to boost capacity on West Anglia Main Line scuppered by “extraordinary” inflation, reports James Cracknell
Plans for a passing loop at Ponders End Station have been ditched
Enfield Council has insisted that the cancellation of planned rail infrastructure works that would have boosted capacity at Meridian Water Station “will have no impact on the delivery of homes”.
Despite planning permission being granted for a scheme to install a passing loop at Ponders End Station just five months ago, the council has confirmed the project is no longer going ahead because of “extraordinary inflationary pressures” that have forced the local authority to appeal for more money from the government to fund it.
The council was awarded £170million from the government’s Housing Infrastructure Fund in 2020, which was supposed to cover the cost of increasing both road and rail capacity at Meridian Water – seen as crucial to enabling the construction of 10,000 homes across the Edmonton redevelopment zone.
A plan was drawn up to build a passing loop at Ponders End, allowing faster trains on the West Anglia Main Line to overtake slower stopping services at the station, meaning more trains could then be added to the timetable. It was envisaged this would see four trains per hour serving Meridian Water Station in future.
Plans were submitted for the scheme last summer and won permission in December, with a contractor even being appointed to deliver the work that was due to start in July, but the council now says that the £170m government grant is not enough to cover the full cost. It is instead using the money it has to ensure that the street works – including new roads, bridges, parks, utilities and flood alleviation – can be built instead.
A council spokesperson said: “Given the extraordinary inflationary pressures on construction costs following the economic turmoil last summer, the council has been in discussions with the government about re-profiling the HIF grant in a way which continues to deliver the homes and jobs at Meridian Water.“Currently, the council has in-principle agreement to focus on the street works. This means the rail works are on hold and the council will seek to secure additional funding to enable the changes to the rail services at a future date.
“The delay in the rail upgrade will have no impact on the delivery of homes at Meridian Water.”
The street works infrastructure project was judged by the council to be more important to deliver in the short-term because it would “unlock key parcels in phase two of Meridian Water” which “already has an outline planning permission for circa 2,300 homes” according to a council report published last month.
Phil Ridley, from Enfield Transport User Group, has said in response that the Ponders End passing loop was a poor solution to the need for greater capacity on the West Anglia Main Line.
He said: “I am not surprised that the Ponders End Loop was cancelled and believe that funding was likely only an excuse, because the scheme would have created more problems than it would have solved.
“The proposal resulted in Ponders End losing its Hertford East to Liverpool Street service, with this being replaced by a Bishop Stortford to Stratford service. The problem with the new service is that it would have paused in the new passing loop at Ponders End Station for circa five minutes while other trains overtook it, causing longer journeys to stations north of Ponders End, including at Enfield Lock, with additional risks of delay.
“We suspect that the solution that will be adopted is an additional shuttle service between Tottenham Hale and Meridian Water on the existing third track, which will require no new infrastructure.”
In terms of finding a long-term solution to the need for greater capacity, Phil says the council and Network Rail need to look at providing a fourth track on the route to Stratford rather than just a passing loop at Ponders End.
He added: “The fundamental problem is that increased capacity to Meridian Water from Stratford, avoiding interference with the mainline and avoiding a sub-optimal Tottenham Hale shuttle, requires an additional track between Ruckholt Road and Stratford and additional platforms at Stratford.”
The Dispatch reported in 2019 that the future provision of a fourth track at Meridian Water – something needed if Crossrail 2 ever went ahead – had been made more difficult after Network Rail sought to make £25m in savings on the installation that year of the third track, which now provides a shuttle service to Stratford.
- ^ install a passing loop at Ponders End Station (enfielddispatch.co.uk)
- ^ published last month (governance.enfield.gov.uk)
- ^ reported in 2019 (enfielddispatch.co.uk)
- ^ Crossrail 2 ever went ahead (enfielddispatch.co.uk)