Wednesday, 5 June 2013

Gas What’s Going On Here

Today in Brinkley Road
Gas pipe replacement work could be coming to a road near you! Ten Roads in Worcester Park are scheduled to be dug up for gas pipe replacement works over the coming months. People in Caverleigh Way and Brinkley Road already know all about this but there is more to come.

Caverleigh Way last week (and similar today)
It all began in Caverleigh Way on the 14th May, when ‘Person X’ kindly emailed me about what he termed the ‘Caverleigh Way Carve Up’.  He was quite frustrated at the way the contractors of Southern Gas Networks Ltd just descended upon Caverleigh Way and began carving up several sections of road/verge sidings to replace previous metal piping with new plastic piping. As well as digging up the road, they were also scheduled to dig up and replace pipes under residents’ private driveways and apparently put new gas meters at the front of people's homes.

According to Person X: 
“A collection of suited men came the day previous to this, but seemingly didn't seem to think it necessary to warn residents that works would be happening. Communication with the residents prior to works has been abysmal.  The contractors themselves were approachable and friendly, and agreed that the "higher ups" had seemingly landed them in it and made them take the flack from the residents.”

“A letter came round the other week (unfortunately I don't have a copy of this any longer) indicating that some works would happen but I believe with no specified start date, and certainly not giving the impression the works would be this extensive.”

"Having spoken to some contractors they explained that their intention is to 'make good' peoples drives and that 'you'll never know we were here'.   This remains to be seen."

More than one person I spoke to was angry that they had had a new driveway installed only a few months prior to the works and would have waited if they had known this was coming. However on a positive side, while gas is being turned off for a day when homes are actually being connected to the new pipes, I have been told by residents that the contractors have offered electric heaters (back when it was colder) to people for the day. 

I emailed Southern Gas Networks to ask them: 
"While residents are on the whole happy with the politeness of the contractors doing the work I have been told that the communication with residents prior to the works starting was 'abysmal'. While people had been told something would be happening at some stage, I understand they were not given notice of when it would actually be starting and this has taken many people by surprise who would have liked to be able to plan accordingly. Is there any reason why these residents could not have been given actual starting dates much earlier?"

I also asked:
"Does Southern Gas Networks guarantee that all driveways will be put back to exactly how they were, and the worked section will not sink in relation to the rest of the driveway over time? And more importantly, will Southern Gas Networks take full responsibility if these things are not done as promised?”

So far I have had four emails thanking me for my email, noting my comments and promising to contact me shortly.

However a little separate research has revealed that the essential gas works that have just begun in Brinkley Road are part of the same set of works and they will be snaking their way round several roads in the area. Today I spoke with the gentleman who is running the operation at the site in Brinkley Road and managed to get some answers to these questions rather quicker than if I waited to hear back by email...

According to him they are replacing the gas pipes in several streets (shown on the map – pictured below), that they are not specifically installing new gas meters but need to install new gas boxes where they can’t easily connect the new pipes to residents’ internal gas pipes. They do need to dig up peoples drives but they are putting them back exactly as they were. They are using new stone material which compacts better, rather than what was dug out so as to avoid driveways sinking later. If customers are not happy with their driveways afterwards they will do them again, and if still not happy they will get someone else to come in and do them. They are making a point now of giving people at least 5 working days notice before commencing work on people’s private property and are trying to give more. He suggested that Southern Gas Networks need to be informed that people have been disappointed with the lack of longer term communication.

Map showing roads scheduled for gas pipe replacement works
So if you are in the following streets, if you are planning to get your driveway done, I would suggest holding off until the gas works have come and gone, and be ready for some possible traffic disruption too (as if we might be spared traffic problems here...):
  • Pembury Avenue (both sides for most of it)
  • Caverleigh Way (both sides)
  • Green Lane (between Brookside Crescent and the Hamptons)
  • Lincoln Road
  • Sutherland Gardens
  • Hazelmere Gardens
  • Browning Avenue (North West end)
  • Brinkley Road (both sides for the North East end)
  • St Philips Avenue (between Browning Avenue and Dalewood Gardens - both sides)
  • Dalewood Gardens

Update 5th June

This afternoon I received a response back from Tony Hollis, the Team Manager responsible for these works. He writes:

"We very much welcome the chance to explain our work in this area of 
Worcester Park and address some of the concerns which have been raised.

I can confirm that all the affected residents in Caverleigh Way were sent 
two letters in April 2013 informing them of our intention to replace the 
gas main in Caverleigh Way and a contact number and e-mail address was 
provided for any enquiries. The second letter sent on 23/4/13 actually 
states that we will be starting on 13/5/13, which we did.

If our customers still feel communication has not been as clear as they 
would have expected, I will investigate fully. I'd like to reassure all 
residents that we take customer satisfaction very seriously indeed and act 
robustly on any issues raised.

The re-instatement of both public and private property is taken just as 
seriously and is constantly monitored and audited for both quality and 
speed of completion. We strive to match as far as is reasonably 
practicable the existing surface (including the purchase of replacement 
materials if required) and all our work is guaranteed for two years. 

As the Southern Gas Networks Team Manager for this project, I'd like to 
stress that any residents who are unhappy with any part of our work 
including re-instatement can make contact me at any time via the Worcester 
Park Blog to resolve any problems. I will gladly meet them and resolve the 

I sincerely hope this answers the issues raised."

Tony has asked me to pass his details onto affected individuals with specific concerns. So if you would like to contact Tony directly, please email the blog and I will put you in contact.