Part of the demolished railway station at Stanford-le-Hope

The railway station at Stanford-le-Hope is supposed to be getting re-developed to create a new, integrated transport hub. The plan is to shift the whole station infrastructure to create space at the front for buses to pull in to drop off and pick up passengers – this would eliminate the congestion that’s currently caused by buses using the existing stop on the road.

The re-development is being undertaken to serve the growing population of the town and also to facilitate better public transport links to the superport at DP World London Gateway and the Thames Enterprise Park. The project is being managed by Thurrock Council and is supposedly getting funded by DP World. This all sounds brilliant but, there’s one major problem…

Namely that since the station was demolished at the start of this year (2019), absolutely sod all has happened. The last anyone of us living in Stanford-le-Hope heard about what was (not) happening with the re-development was this report in the Thurrock Independent way back in June: Work halted at Stanford’s planned new rail station. Even the poster on the developers hoarding at the front of the station proudly announcing the re-development has disappeared.

Staff from the train operator, c2c, work at peak times during the week and sometimes on a Saturday out of poky little cabins little bigger than a couple of telephone boxes shoved together. For the rest of the time these ‘facilities’ are used by the security guards c2c have contracted to work at the station. Toilet facilities are provided in portaloos in a fenced off compound in the car park opposite the front of the station on the other side of a busy main road. Working in such conditions during the spring and summer was bad enough. As we head into what some meteorologists are forecasting to be a snowy cold winter, working conditions will be utterly grim.

Needless to say, it’s shite for the passengers as well. The refreshment kiosk has gone. With the ticket hall gone, shelter is limited to a couple of glorified bus shelters on both the up and down platforms. These shelters also contain the ticket machines, limiting capacity. Access to the up platform is along a corridor formed by the wall along the adjacent stream on one side and the hoarding by the demolished ticket hall on the other. It’s grim and during the hours of darkness, not somewhere you’d want to hang around.

There’s a rumour that the halt has been caused by Thurrock Council massively underestimating the cost of the scheme, particularly the work of extending the bridge over the adjacent stream. When one of the core components of competent project management is working out costings and ensuring that funding is in place to meet those costs before any demolition and subsequent construction takes place, the current situation where no work has taken place for months beggars belief.

The kicker for the staff, passengers and residents of Stanford-le-Hope is the complete lack of any meaningful communication from Thurrock Council to explain what’s (not) going on and when (or even if) work on the re-development will resume. Not only has there been no explanation, there’s not even been a hint of an apology. Yet again, this is another example of arrogance and incompetence from an out of touch local authority.

This is symptomatic of the disconnect between local government and the residents they’re supposed to be serving. A disconnect that’s further shattering people’s faith in local democracy to deliver what’s needed to enable us to lead a decent life. When failures like this become more frequent, it’s an indication that the economic, political and social system we live under is in increasing disarray and no longer fit for purpose.