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London: February 8 Gas Main Problem Won't be Repaired Until at Least June

The hole that will be around for a whole lot longer

Source: Evening Standard - London Publication date: Apr 19, 2000

THIS hole has been in Fenchurch Street since 8 February. The good news for long-suffering locals is that yesterday gas pipeline company Transco finally announced plans to fill it in. The bad news? Those plans won't happen until June - by order.

For nearby businesses, the trench forms just another unsightly mess to cause problems with deliveries and traffic jams during City rush hours.

But it seems that this is no ordinary hole.

The ground beneath is already so packed with pipes and IT cables serving the Square Mile that necessary repairs to the gas main require extreme care.

Drills or JCBs are out; old-fashioned manual digging is in.

That will involve blocking off Fenchurch Street for three weeks and according to the City of London Corporation, so many other streets in the surrounding area are already sealed off for utility works that this latest closure cannot take place until the summer.

Just to rub salt into local wounds, this, it is claimed, is an example of "co-ordination" between utilities and highways chiefs. "It makes it difficult for my beer deliveries," said Jane Lynch, landlady of the East India Arms on Fenchurch Street.

"When the delivery lorry parks outside the cellar, the road is effectively blocked off. What I can't understand is why they didn't bother getting this hole finished straight away in the first place. All it is doing is causing a bottleneck."

The problems outside 108 Fenchurch Street show how the sheer scale of the capital's "holes in the road" crisis can frustrate even the best attempts by utilities and local councils to reduce disruption.

Last October, the then Lord Mayor of London, Lord Levene, persuaded 20 different companies to take part in a voluntary code of practice committing them to finishing works by set deadlines, co- ordinating where possible and agreeing to a road-works moratorium on certain key roads designated by the Corporation. The scheme has been highly praised - but in this case it means works started on an emergency basis must wait to be finished.

A spokesman for Transco said: "We got the original call in February and ascertained that it was a gas leak and that work needed doing. We have done some temporary repairs, but to do the job completely will involve digging right around the pipe and round lots of other cables by hand. That will probably require Fenchurch Street to be closed for around three weeks.

"After liaising with the Corporation they advised us to plan the works for June because they have got other works planned which they want to co-ordinate it with.

"That is effectively to minimise inconvenience and since the road hole is not actually blocking the traffic, there is not any point in filling it in meanwhile."

Publication date: Apr 19, 2000 ) 2000, NewsReal, Inc.

-- Carl Jenkins (, April 19, 2000

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