Monday, 18 December 2017

Goring rail line work 'will ruin countryside'

THE electrification of the railway line through Goring will ruin the surrounding countryside, say residents.

THE electrification of the railway line through Goring will ruin the surrounding countryside, say residents.

Network Rail is installing overhead power cables as part of the scheme, which covers the route between Reading and Oxford and is expected to be finished next year.

Last week contractors began felling trees and putting up steel lattice gantries which will span the track at regular intervals to hold the wires in place.

They erected more than half a dozen to the north of Goring where the track passes the Leatherne Bottel pub and Withymead nature reserve.

Neighbours say this will spoil the appearance of the open space between Goring and South Stoke, which is part of the Chilterns Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

They want Network Rail to suspend the cables using wire headspans, which are lengths of metal support wire suspended between taller, thinner poles.

They also want the company to replant trees and hedges along the way to further reduce the impact.

Emrhys Barrell, who lives near the line in Bridle Way, Goring, is among 80 or so people who have signed a petition calling for a rethink.

He said: ?They don?t appear to have made any effort to reduce the visual impact.

?The gantries would look awful on any stretch of the line but they?re completely inappropriate for a rural area.

?I don?t see why they can?t just put in wire headspans on this section, then plant trees along the whole stretch. It would surely be cheaper. What is the point in having areas of outstanding natural beauty if you can just barge something like this through?

?People around here have been caught completely off guard. They only realised how bad it was going to look when the work started.

?Nobody opposes electrification in principle but we assumed we would be treated sensitively.?

Ian Haslam, from South Stoke, who started the campaign, said: ?The overhead spans are exceptionally visually obtrusive, giving the appearance of a metal box structure.

?Network Rail conducted a study which recognised that the electrification would have a ?large, adverse impact? on this landscape but the plans we have seen offer no mitigation.

?If this continues it will be the most significant adverse change to this area since the railway was built in 1838.?

Network Rail says it must install gantries as wire headspans are old technology and not as safe or reliable.

It says it must keep trees away from the line for safety reasons but will plant wild flowers in their place.

Francis Paonessa, managing director for infrastructure, told objectors: ?I sympathise with your concerns but wire headspans are simply not possible for reasons of reliability, constructability and electrical safety.

?The system we are installing is more reliable and safer to build than older versions of overhead line equipment and meets modern technical and safety requirements.

?A wire head span is less visually intrusive and, of course, cheaper but can cause major disruption to train services occasionally.

?It is essential that we consider the whole life cost as opposed to simply the costs to design, procure and install. Structures carrying wire headspans also need to be taller than the structures we have installed and require much deeper piles.?

Mr Paonessa said the East Coast Main Line between London and Edinburgh used wire headspans and frequently suffered delays. One breakdown in 2013 resulted in a two-day closure.

Henley MP John Howell, who is backing the residents, has written to Network Rail for a second time requesting more information. He said: ?Their response doesn?t really address the problem and I would like to know where they are getting their information from.

?I want to see the evidence for what they?re saying ? they need to make it clearer for me and others who have raised concerns.?

The work is classed as permitted development, meaning it did not need planning permission from South Oxfordshire District Council.

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