It's not every day you return home to discover that the Government plans to divert one of London's major sewers beneath your flat. Thankfully this hasn't quite happened to me, but it's come bloody close (like, within fifty metres) and that's scary enough.
Crossrail is coming. Very slowly, admittedly, but by 2013 it's hoped that rail travellers will be able to zoom underneath central London and out into the suburbs far faster than is possible today. Sounds great. And it will be, except for the unlucky few who live just that bit too close to the proposed route of the new tunnels, because you can't build a new railway without making a mess. In East London, for example, there's a bigfuss up Brick Lane about the proposed Hanbury Laneshaft which will see lorryloads of spoil being carted through the streets of Banglatown. Elsewhere Crossrail planners appear to have hunted down most of the available patches of open space directly above their tunnel route (like half of Finsbury Circus, the fountain beneath Centre Point, a Sainsbury's car park and a traveller caravan site), and plan to transform them into ventilation shafts and temporary worksites. If it can't fight back, they'll build on it.
One of the areas to be seriously affected is Bow. We're not getting a station or anything useful, but Crossrail is due to burrow within 100 metres of my house before passing underneath the River Lea (pictured) and emerging from deep tunnel just to the south of the Olympic site. Us locals are therefore promised "about four years and three months" of major building works while they construct the tunnel portal. Plans include the closure of various riverside towpaths for "a year and three months", a month-long closure of the busy A12 Blackwall Tunnel Approach road, a realigned DLR station and the eastward diversion of a major sewer. We're advised that all this work will provide "adverse visual impacts" for residents... unless we happen to like cranes and concrete mixers, that is. And this is in addition to six years of neighbouring Olympic redevelopment. Which means that my local area is about to turn into a giant building site for the forseeable future - peaking in 2010, apparently. But not quite directly affecting my house. Or so I thought.
I received a letter this week advising me that Crossrail's plans have altered slightly. That sewer they were planning to divert eastwards is going to have to curve west instead to avoid some very solid industrial foundations. And this new realignment will bring a lot of tunnelling and a stream of effluent very nearly, but not quite, underneath my flat. Delightful. The sewer diversion also requires three new permanent access shafts, so Crossrail have looked for the three least contentious patches of land round here and plan to build on those too. Residents of BowQuarter will no doubt be delighted by the construction of the new 'Manhattan Shaft' close to their esteemed apartments. The view from my window, or at least the green part of it, will be replaced by yet another grey-topped worksite, at least temporarily. And the drive-through burger restaurant down by the Bow Flyover will have to be demolished so that the third sewer shaft can be built. Hmmm, the destruction of a McDonalds restaurant and its replacement by a sewage outfall - maybe all this new development isn't quite so bad after all...