To keep you updated on progress as work gets underway please find a link EWR2 Project Newsletter – July 2020 to the latest official East West Rail project newsletter. This includes general project progress and also localised information for communities in the affected areas. The three most relevant localised sections for Stratton Audley are shown here as individual PDF’s.
Included below is a record of the note sent out to residents on 13th July sharing the Parish Council’s understanding of likely impact that East West Rail Construction Traffic will have on the area from July 2020 going forward.
Below is what I know about the East West Rail construction work that is now underway in the area and how it may affect the Parish. I am sorry this is rather long but without the opportunity to have a public meeting at the moment, it is best to spell it out.
At the official project launch earlier this year on 27 February in Milton Keynes, the Parish Council became aware that contrary to the previous understanding, some construction traffic heading for the Launton Compound would be routed through Stratton Audley particularly when bridge construction work at Launton begins in Spring 2021.
The original written understanding not to route any HGV OR LGV vehicles through the village had been reached in May 2018. However following subsequent discussions with the County Councils, the interim decision was overruled and it was decided that LGV’s would be permissible. This was agreed in the Statement of Common Ground signed by Network Rail and Oxfordshire County Council on 28 February 2019.
The Environmental Statement assessed that on average the route through Stratton Audley on the Launton Road sees about 915 vehicles per weekday and the project would have no more than 15 LGVs a day through the village. This represents a 1.5% increase in vehicles distributed throughout the working day which is considered to be of slight impact. The route has been tracked and found to be suitable for HGVs and therefore is suitable for LGV traffic.
An added concern arose when it was pointed out that the term LGV is now used to describe Large Goods Vehicles rather than Light Goods Vehicles which are vans up to 7.5 tons. However although this means larger vehicles may also use the route, it has also been pointed out that there is a weight restriction on the road of 10.5 tons and so use by larger vehicles will be discouraged.
The Parish Council has objected and been in discussions with the planners over the last few months but the plans will not change by much. However some reassurances have been received and additional information provided about the level of disruption which is outlined below.
Preparatory works at the Launton compound have now been more or less completed and can be seen from the road if you drive from the Bicester ring road over the traffic-light controlled bridge heading in the direction of Launton. That stretch of road (the Bicester Road from Charbridge Lane to Launton) will be closed for a maximum of three days from the 20th July to complete the compound entrance. EWR have told me that the approved diversion route is through Stratton Audley but that it is the responsibility of the relevant highways department to inform those affected.
As a result of this unsatisfactory state of affairs, I have now established a new direct contact at OCC who has agreed that there needs to be better co-ordination and communication between EWR and OCC and she will take responsibility for keeping us informed of road closures and other disruptions.
The following recent Q&A between the EWR Alliance section manager responsible for both the Launton and Poundon compound provides some answers and reassurance (answers in red):
- Has work on the haul road commenced and are LGV vehicles accessing the Launton Compound as of now (June)?
The Haul Road between Bicester Road and Station Road is complete. LGV’s accesses Launton via Stratton Audley will be minimal over the next few months, perhaps two a day.
2. When is the likely date that vehicles will start to use the route through Stratton Audley?
We have already started to use it for de-veg and environmental works but I suspect it wouldn’t be noticeable as they’ll be just a few van size vehicles per day. Works to the overbridge on Station Road start on the 27th July, however the first 5 months of the programme is earthworks where the majority, other than transportation of labour using personnel vehicles and transit size materials, will be along the Haul Road not through Stratton Audley.
3. Please confirm that the route through the village is via Mill Road from the crossroad with Stratton Park Road.
4. How many months will construction traffic vehicles be coming through the village?
Roughly two years however there will be periods of very low use as above
5. What are the opening and closing times of the compound and likely traffic flow throughout the day, hour by hour?
Compounds will be open from 07:00 to 18:00hrs. I don’t expect large volumes to pass through Stratton Audley where there’ll be no more than one or two per hour (except for say 12# construction workers travelling to site at the start and end of their day) but will keep you updated moving forward
- I understand you intend for the vehicles to be clearly identified. Is this with a sign in the cab window or something else?
All suppliers should display the EWR sign in the cab
7. What plans have you to improve the road surface on Mill Road and particularly Launton Road and what contingency money is there for the installation of VAS signs?
There is an agreement with OCC that the roads will be regularly monitored. If defects arise they will be repaired within the periods outlined by OCC.
8. Residents will be concerned about potential damage to buildings, some of which are very old, listed or are particularly susceptible to vibration.
The small amount of numbers and limited size shouldn’t cause any damage, however I appreciate your concern. I will have to refer to our Land Agents on how a claim would be made.
9. Please confirm that the vehicle size will be limited to 7.5 tons and no more. The question arises because a Councillor has pointed out that the term LGV which has always been understood to be an abbreviation for a light goods vehicle, actually nowadays may also refer to a large goods vehicle which potentially could be as big as an HGV vehicle. To be clear, should any vehicle accessing Stratton Audley be larger than 7.5tons then we will have been considerably mislead, as I have it in writing from EWR that ‘LGV = vehicles under 7.5tons’. I am sure you will understand that if this turns out to be the case, it will be palpably unacceptable and vigorously opposed.
I can confirm no vehicles above 7.5t will be knowingly sent through Stratton Audley. We have implemented measures to manage our suppliers by controlling access times by mandating they book delivery slots with vehicle details provided, issuing the approved routes to all suppliers etc. I would request however, that if any vehicle is observed above the 7.5t, outside the approved route, please record details (ideally a photo) and let us know so we can rectify.
Separately, clarification has been sought as to the start date for the building of the passing bays on the Stratton Audley Park Road that runs from the A4421 passing Stratton Park to the Poundon compound. For those of you who don’t know, this road will be used by HGV vehicles to build and supply the Poundon compound and the passing bays are necessary to deal with the very real issues associated with the narrowness of the road.
The start date for the building of the passing bays is upon us and apparently there are notices on the road to confirm this (responses in red)
The first of the closures on this road is for the passing bays down near Poundon and the second longer closure for the creation of passing bays back towards the A4421 by Stratton Park. The passing bays from the A4421 to Poundon commence from the 13th July for 4 days and then recommence on the 27th July to the 13th August.
(I have now seen the traffic management map for the first closure next week and the diversion routes traffic through Stratton Audley via Launton Road and Mill Road. I have now established that we were not informed of this nor were Oxford County Council, because the order was issued by Buckingham County Council).
How long will these take and what level of disruptions is likely? Additionally what is the time table for when HGV and other vehicles will start to use this road, together with the latest estimated numbers and the flow rates?
With reference to the HGV’s starting to use these routes, we will have HGV’s supplying the early compound works, the highway works and then the main site compound works at Poundon. This will be over the next few months. There won’t be a consistent number of vehicles but expect a maximum of around 25 per day for a few weeks until the stoning of the compound is complete. After this (around the end of September), the numbers will reduce dramatically until the earthworks commence in April 2021 next year.
In summary whilst it is hoped the village will not be too affected by the works at the Launton compound over the next few months, we are likely to see increased traffic flows as a result of the closure of the road in Launton from 20th July. However a further meeting between Highways and EWR is taking place this week and OCC have now told me they will not be directing large vehicles via Stratton Audley.
Additionally, the two road closures during this month to construct the passing bays on the top road from the A4421 to the Poundon compound will be disruptive, with the first closure happening next week. This will affect some of us but particularly have a significant impact on the residents who live on or around that road.
There is little to be done other than to be aware of the situation. You can report any issues that arise to the Network Rail help line 03457 11 4141. Alternatively you can contact Thaina S’aid (email@example.com ) who is the Community Liaison Officer for this project in this area. Naturally please keep the Parish Council informed and we will continue to do the same.