The sorry saga of Stanford-le-Hope railway station continues…

Our previous post – How much lower can Thurrock Council sink FFS?! – was written in response to their lamentable approach to media relations in particular, and accountability to their residents in general. The question posed in the headline could equally apply to their botched handling of infrastructure projects.

One botched project in particular stands out, namely the ‘re-development’ of the railway station at Stanford-le-Hope. The re-development was mooted by Thurrock Council a few years ago now to provide for a better interchange between the train and bus services. One of the objectives was to try and encourage more workers at the nearby London Gateway super-port to travel to and from work by public transport. A grand plan was developed that would have involved a complete re-configuration of the railway station to allow for a large pull in area for bus services.

Everyone got very excited by this. Back in February 2019, many of the existing station buildings at the station were demolished as part of what we naively thought would be the start of the re-development. Then…nothing happened… Nothing happened for a long while. It turned out that the ‘plans’ for the new station had neither been properly worked out or costed. It was only once many of the station structures had been demolished that Thurrock Council realised that the ‘plans’ were pretty much unworkable. Cue some crappy ‘temporary’ replacement structures being thrown up to allow the station to continue functioning. Apart from these, we’re still waiting for visible signs of progress.

Just when we thought Thurrock Council had hit rock bottom with their incompetent handling of the station ‘re-development’, it has now come to light that the total cost of the project will be close to £30 million. This is how it has been covered in the local media: Stanford rail station budget soars close to £30 million despite pledge it would not burst a ‘budget envelope’ of £20 million. Rather than us paraphrase what’s in the Thurrock Nub News piece, we recommend that you read it…and then weep!

What can we say about this sorry situation that hasn’t already been said by us and many others? All that can be said is that it’s pretty clear to anyone who follows what goes on locally that Thurrock Council are not fit for purpose. We’re looking at system failure. That may sound dramatic but when three infrastructure projects – the A13 widening / the ‘re-development’ of the railway station at Stanford-le-Hope / the refurbishment of the tower blocks on the Seabrooke Rise estate in Grays – all run into serious problems, it’s self evident that things have gone seriously wrong. That’s before we even get started on the council’s troubled ‘borrow to invest’ financial strategy which has the potential to bring the whole house of cards falling down.

How this gets resolved is anyone’s guess. If things get to the point where government commissioners are brought in to sort out the mess, in a way we can understand why a fair few people might breathe a sigh of relief. However, the problem is that if this happens, the already flawed concept of local democracy will be further undermined. Important decisions about how botched infrastructure projects get completed and more broadly, how the borough develops and grows, will be getting made by people who don’t live in the area. Us residents who already only have a token say in these matters could end up having no say at all. The local elections are coming up in May. Normally, we’re not in the business of telling people how they should vote. However, it’s abundantly clear that what’s needed is a new cohort of councillors, preferably with a lot of life experience, who will get to grips with senior officers who have been allowed to screw up without any repercussions. Also, a cohort of councillors who will be open and honest with us residents about what’s gone wrong and what has to be done to put things right. Please vote accordingly…

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