NETWORK Rail has been blamed for delaying a flood alleviation project which would have stopped homes in Oxford flooding last month.
The £1m scheme at Hinksey Stream, near Kennington, would ease flooding in South Hinksey, Osney, Binsey and Abingdon Road.
Campaigners say it would have stopped homes flooding, and may not have led to the closure of Abingdon Road, if last month’s combination of rainfall and water levels happened again.
Downpours in November caused the worst flooding Oxford had seen since 2007, and just weeks later many endured a repeat of the misery.
Sewage backed up into homes, roads were closed, and a constant fear of flooding with every downpour enveloped the city.
But now the Hinksey Stream project at Munday’s Bridge – which involves a new 900m surface water sewer and clearing a drainage pond – has stalled indefinitely.
Thames Water announced in August that the project was “on track” with construction work due to start this month.
The new surface water sewer would take water away from Kennington Road.
And the pond needs to be cleared so flood water can drain into it – currently it backs up and causes flooding further upstream.
However Oxford’s two MPs say Network Rail, which owns land neighbouring the stream, has refused to take on ownership of the land needed to complete the work.
They say Network Rail has also refused to agree a time for overnight closure of the line and has cancelled meetings with contractors.
Network Rail did not deny any of the claims.
Every other body involved in the project – Thames Water, the Environment Agency, Vale of White Horse District Council, Oxford City and Oxfordshire County Councils – indicated to the Oxford Mail they were ready to proceed.
The watercourse at the Hinksey Stream, also known as Hinksey Drain, currently floods onto Kennington Road and has flooded properties in Kennington Road and Upper Road, as well as highways and the main railway line through Oxford.
Peter Rawcliffe, of Oxford Flood Alliance, said the project would have reduced the damage to homes in Earl Street in Osney and nearby areas over the past two months.
Mr Rawcliffe said: “We are talking about flooding inside people’s houses of a few inches, and yet that amount of water is currently stuck.
“It’s terribly important that the water does get away but at the moment it’s a bit like a bath with the plug still in, swirling around inside the floodplain with nowhere to go.” Oxford West and Abingdon MP Nicola Blackwood and Oxford East MP Andrew Smith are now demanding answers. The pair wrote to Network Rail chief executive David Higgins to state: “It is good to have all the local agencies working together and it is not acceptable for Network Rail to be delaying the works.”
Mr Smith said: “The improvements at Munday’s Bridge will help water drain faster from South Oxford as a whole, cutting flood risk for residents as well as lessening the danger of disruption for rail travellers, which makes it all the more bizarre that Network Rail is dragging its feet.”
Network Rail spokesman Sam Kelly said: “Discussions are still under way and are complex because of the transfer of land necessary to facilitate the project that has to take place between five individual private landowners. We are working with all parties to achieve a solution as soon as possible.”
Five homeowners have offered their land for the project, which would also extend on to existing Network Rail property, but Network Rail has not formally taken charge of the land.
- Several water courses remained on flood alert last night, including the River Thames in Abingdon, Oxford and from Days Lock to Pangbourne, the Windrush from Bourton to Newbridge and the River Thames and Chalgrove Brook.
Flood alert means flooding is possible and residents should be prepared.
An overcast day is forecast to give way to heavy showers this evening, with 2-4mm of rainfall expected.