Last night 300 residents came to Grove Chapel on Camberwell Grove for a meeting to discuss the future of the Camberwell Grove Railway Bridge. It was a superb public meeting with many thoughtful and relevant contributions - and a fair bit of applause and barracking! The meeting came about after Cllr Sandra Rhule, Chair of Camberwell Community Council, together with myself and Cllr Ian Wingfield proposed it at a recent Community Council meeting.
I had the job of trying to summarise some of the main points of the evening - not an easy task as there were some fairly polarised views! My own views are that Network Rail must bear significant responsibility for the failure to repair the bridge speedily. Readers of this blog will know that we have been promised a number of different dates for the bridge to re-open, but these have constantly slipped. We were told last night that March 2008 is now the likely time to re-open; although I wouldn't bet any money on that! Traffic signals remain an unpopular solution to the problem of how to manage traffic on a re-opened bridge. Despite some hostile views being expressed, the vast majority of residents present at the meeting and directly affected by a traffic signal solution were against them. This accords with my recent survey. I can understand the frustration of people who want to see the bridge re-opened, but I don't understand why they are angry that traffic signals are unpopular - perhaps a reader can enlighten me!?
Issues on which everyone seemed to be in agreement were - 1. the need to properly stop HGVs and lorries using Camberwell Grove; 2. the need for a sympathetic solution to managing the traffic - there is no reason why a solution needs to look like roadworks on the M6; 3. a proper traffic survey across Camberwell and Peckham in order to try and limit the number of rat-runs; 4. the need for a permanent and long-term solution to the problem. Ultimately the railway bridge needs to be replaced, and the sooner this can be done, the better.
Cllr Paul Noblet, the LibDem Executive member for transport put in a fairly woeful performance. Although he has not been in the job long he did not appear to have briefed himself on the issues and received a fairly angry reception from the residents present.
Cllr Mark Glover, my colleague from the Lane Ward, chaired the meeting excellently, and every view was fairly heard. Andrew Downes, the Council's traffic officer coped very well with some tough questions and gave a thorough presentation.
I hope that the meeting served to underline the strength of feeling which exists on this issue, and this helps guide Cllr Noblet and Andrew Downes to make the right decisions for the future of Camberwell Grove.