04:03PM, Monday 07 September 2020
Photo from Crossrail Ltd
Lofty hopes and Crossrail delays
So, I read in The Advertiser that yet again the losers at Crossrail (Very) Limited, headed very expensively no doubt, by someone called Mark Wild, (soon to be Sir Mark Wild?), have now announced it won’t be finished until 2029 – sorry, I meant 2023.
And top of the list of reasons for yet another delay?
Well, it’s the current favourite of all inefficient organisations – COVID-19 of course!
I just knew when COVID struck that it would provide a brilliant reason for Crossrail to announce another delay.
And what is it that’s causing them so many problems? Well, apart from good old COVID-19, they are faced with ‘complex stations and routeways’.
Actually, that’s always an awful problem with building railways, isn’t it?
I expect Isambard Kingdom Brunel constantly moaned on and on about complex stations and routeways, when he was building the Great Western Railway in the 19th century.
A ‘spokesman’ says ‘So it’s hard to give an exact date, but you are looking at roughly a year from when the central section opens until services go direct to Maidenhead’.
‘Roughly a year’ – could that mean 'roughly three years’, or even ‘roughly four years'?
I see that Cllr Clark, a true master of understatement, says ‘we will appreciate it when it arrives’ and that any delay is ‘a disappointment’.
It’s rather like when you are getting soaked in the rain and the bus is running so late you miss a vital meeting – you really appreciate it when it arrives, although nevertheless it is a disappointment.
Finally, Crossrail was supposed to arrive in 2018, with an estimated cost of approximately £15billion.
So now it won’t arrive until 2029, sorry there I go again – 2023… and at what cost I wonder? Any advance on £19billion?
You wouldn’t want them to quote you for a loft extension, would you?
MALCOLM JAMES STETTEN
Hospice service offers excellent care
I was truly appalled to read a letter objecting to the building of a hospice on the Windsor Road (Viewpoint, August 27).
I was diagnosed with cancer in 2014.
Fortunately due to the superb care from my consultants and the wonderful young radiologists at the Reading Cancer Centre, where I attended every day for treatment for a month, I have survived this long.
My fellow patients were wonderful cheerful company, and when thinking of them I hope they have been as fortunate as myself.
If this has not been the case I hope very much that they were referred to a hospice where they ended their days receiving kind and loving attention.
How can anyone object to cancer patients being denied a nearby hospice?
I have been travelling up the Windsor Road for over 40 years past some grim scruffy fields where this new hospice is being built – hardly a rural paradise .
As to the ‘poor suffering residents’ of Windsor Road, try suffering from terminal cancer and really have something to moan about.
But surprisingly all my fellow patients, some probably terminal, were courageously full of optimism and never complained.
Once the trees are planted, the grass and hedges grown back, one can only hope that these miserable, selfish opponents of the hospice feel ashamed of their pathetic objections, and look towards it and think ‘there but for the grace of God go I’.
What are they doing to our town?
From what I’ve read in the ’Tiser and from what I have witnessed around the town I have to ask, do our councillors actually care about the people they represent?
One only has to look around the borough to see the madness going on.
It seems that anyone who disagrees with the council is silenced or ignored.
Decisions are steamrollered through without much discussion.
It appears democracy has taken a back seat in the town hall.
As for Cllr Johnson’s remark about the RBWM being a ship on a voyage, he’s right, we are on the Titanic rearranging the deck chairs.
Then there is the disaster that is the local road planning.
According to the lead for transport, Cllr Gerry Clark, ‘we have a common sense council’.
When did this happen?
Is it common sense to authorise roadworks on the A308 when you know the motorway will be closed and all the traffic from the motorway will be going down the A308?
Is it common sense to phase the traffic lights at the junction of Queen Street and Frascati Way so the traffic backs up and blocks the traffic trying to exit from Grenfell Road?
And if it’s common sense to put businesses in jeopardy for the sake of some worthless cyclability scheme I don’t want anyway?
Let’s be honest, how many people will be getting their bicycle out of the shed when there are a few inches of snow on the ground or it’s pouring down with rain if they have a nice warm car they can use?
The council wants to build 12,500 houses across the borough.
Is that really desirable or necessary?
That’s 12,500 taps being connected to an already creaking water system and 12,500 toilets connected to an overloaded sewage system.
Is that wise?
To quote from the RBWM Water Quality Impact Report from May 2019: “The allocation of large numbers of new homes in certain locations may result in the capacity of existing available infrastructure being exceeded, a situation that could potentially cause service failures to water and wastewater customers, adverse impacts to the environment, or high costs for the upgrade of water and wastewater assets being passed on to the bill payers.”
Did you like the last part?
“Passed on to the bill payers.”
There is also the potential of 12,500 more cars on our mismanaged roads, but don’t worry folks the council will be ok because if you average out the top four council tax bands across 12,500 it works out to £14,537,500 a year in council tax.
I ask again, do our councillors really care about the people they represent?
I think the answer must be a resounding no.
If they did care the borough and particularly Maidenhead town centre would not be in the state they are in.
When I first came to Maidenhead nearly 40 years ago it was a pleasant sleepy riverside town, now it’s just awful and it’s going to get worse.
When will our councillors realise that they are public servants and are elected by the people to look after our best interest?
Silence, setbacks and ‘teething troubles’
‘Well, why would you come to Maidenhead?’ was the retort I received from my pharmacist at 9.15am last Thursday in the Nicholsons Centre.
I had asked him if Boris had declared the day a holiday ahead of Brexit as the shop, the centre and Maidenhead were deserted.
This is what it is like most days, he said.
I had just digested the latest round of depressing news of the regeneration of the town, delay on Crossrail, no work on The Landing until January and the remarkable ‘teething problems’ on the chaos of bin collections.
Cllr Donna Stimson, at this time, notably quiet.
I was talking to a chap in the local pub the previous night and he said there used to be a market, a butcher, a fishmonger in the town centre and what happened to the Sunday market in the High Street?
The traders found it uneconomic – Maidenhead’s residents spend their money elsewhere.
Why not? Twelve minutes on the train to Reading, a quick drive to a new centre in Bracknell –- indeed why would you come to Maidenhead?
What shops are here and open do not seem to want to take our money.
WHS at 4.40pm the lights go out in the shop.
Sunday at 3.30pm in Boots second floor no customers but three assistants having a lovely chat, how about some service?
As my local supermarket is due to close shortly I set my sights further afield and into that monolith Sainsbury's.
Having completed my perfunctory shop I go to the self checkout and then turn left to exit the store by the doors towards Providence Place.
I get there and the doors remain closed – there is a note on the outside, and thanks to my proof reading days, I read that this entrance is closed.
I think I already found that out!
Perhaps customer service can provide an answer?
I cannot find the customer service desk but the Customer Service ‘till’ which is unmanned and I am joined by another customer.
An assistant approaches but does not know why there is no sign near the tills saying that exit is closed but calls for a manager.
When he eventually arrives his answer to the question is ‘we can put up a sign’ to avoid me having to walk with my shopping all the way there and back and the response – why have you not done so already?
My wife, when I return home, tells me ‘if you were a regular Sainsbury's shopper you would know it has been closed for many months’!
Will I return – nope?
Maybe M&S is a better and closer option?
It all adds up with charges and challenges
You can now pay for your parking by phone, which is apparently more convenient, but this means you pay the parking fee ‘plus a small charge’ on top of that –- are they having a laugh or what?
I pay by cash or card.
Despite assurances about different payment options, this wonderful new system above Sainsbury’s seems to have been set up to pay lip service to all the options in order to force people to use telephone payment (I do not have an iPhone).
The first machine I tried would not take my money, or card.
After five attempts an out of order sign appeared.
So on to the next machine, which took my money but did not produce a ticket, although I retried my money.
A kind lady went to the next machine at least 200 yards away and got me a ticket, whilst warning me that there were wardens about issuing tickets.
Any attempt to ring numbers shown on the machine is met with recorded messages.
Surely at the very least we could expect the machines to be checked regularly.
Well, in future I am shopping at Taplow, so there will be one less footfall in the town.
Well done RBWM.
Safety first for road crossings – not causes
The sole purpose of recognisable and long established pedestrian crossings is to make the public safe when crossing the road. It was not meant to promote, what could evolve a myriad of different causes.
Cllr LEO WALTERS
Finance and flood prevention in a mess
The CIPFA Report on financial governance is unbelievably shocking.
Humble apologies on record – yes – but assurances from the leader of the council about ‘a new era of honesty, openness and transparency’ have yet to be implemented.
RBWM is in such a mess they do not know which way to turn.
Planning enforcement and Borough responsibilities as Lead Local Flood Authority have simply been abandoned locally.
River Thames Scheme partnership funding has not been arranged and now they cannot even empty the dustbins properly!
I have no doubt there is worse to come and only wish we had an election in May.
Cllr EWAN LARCOMBE
National Flood Prevention Party, Datchet, Horton and Wraysbury
Floored by perpetual flawed decisions
How pertinent was the letter in last’s week Advertiser about Government chaos?
We have reached the point where the number of U-turns by Boris Johnson’s Conservative Government have reached double figures since March, causing so much unnecessary stress in these exceedingly difficult times.
Decisions are arrived at without what appears to be too much consideration and then changed with little explanation.
Those who challenge or criticise are removed and the buck for mistakes certainly hasn’t stopped with ministers, who think that saying ‘sorry’ is enough and are still clinging on to their jobs.
What scrutiny there was, through the daily press conferences, was dispensed with and, with Parliament in recess, the Government has not faced any real examination of its actions.
Just to name a few:
We have no ‘world-beating’ contact system.
In March, testing in the community was dropped and we spent months pursuing a £10bn centralised model (with many private firms benefitting) and hiring 18,000 tracers – now looks like a regional approach may be needed and 6,000 tracers have been axed.
In May, face masks are deemed not to be necessary, even to err on the safe side.
Now they’re essential in shops and some schools.
Schemes affecting the low-paid NHS workers and social care workers, such as bereavement and visa schemes, have had to be reversed.
The lack of transparency about PPE for care homes, and the disregard for what was happening in care homes and community support, needs a separate enquiry of its own.
It is not only the U-turns but the total lack of forward planning, particularly for schools and universities.
The latest last-minute guidance to schools on quarantining classes must be causing total confusion to schools struggling to reopen.
The Government was fully aware when schools closed that exams would not be taking place and so the A-levels and GCSEs debacle should never have happened.
We all recognise that, in complex situations, changes are necessary at times but at the moment we appear to be subject to knee jerk reactions based on flawed advice.
Please give walkers more, not less, choice
I am pleased that Mr Copas has opened up more permitted footpaths on his property (Viewpoint, August 27) but I am also hoping that he will not reduce the footpath network by applying to close the cross field path near Mount Farm.
This cross field right of way is a useful route in the area’s network of paths providing a direct link between Cookham and Furze Platt/Pinkneys Green and should remain open.
There is much more pleasure in crossing an open sunny field than in being sidelined to an often shady margin path which is becoming more urbanised with the gravelly all weather surface.
The diagonal field path does become a quagmire after prolonged wet weather but so do several of the other paths locally.
Its condition is no reason to close it as walkers can compensate with appropriate footwear.
The short stretch of path at the west end of Beeching Grove Wood should not affect the nature reserve there which is already fenced off and dog free.
Please keep the footpath open and give the increased number of walkers more, rather than less, choice.
Step forward and help Magpies mark 150th
Maidenhead United Supporters Association, like the football club itself, is gearing up for the Magpies’ 150th anniversary season, and we are looking for people to join the MUSA committee at this exciting time in the club’s history.
We hope to mark the anniversary with some events of our own, as well as issuing commemorative merchandise and organising fundraising to add to our ring-fenced ground improvements account.
Committee meetings are generally held once a month. At this point in time we have not set a limit on how many people we could add to the team.
So this is something of a new era that we are asking you to be part of, and in addition to new committee members we welcome approaches from anyone who would be interested in taking on one of the MUSA officer roles.
Please step forward if you feel able and willing to donate some of your time and abilities to helping make this anniversary season something special for every Maidenhead United fan.
Email firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
Acting chairman, Maidenhead United Supporters Association
I’m with Angela, let’s finalise Brexit deals
It is rumoured that German Chancellor Angela Merkel is impatient for Brexit negotiations to be concluded in the next few weeks.
If that is the case then she is not alone in being fed up with the unnecessary delay and the continuing uncertainty.
Boris Johnson reportedly decided that if there was no agreement in principle by the end of June then we would cease our attempts to secure a special trade deal with the EU, and simply default to WTO terms.
So why has that still not happened, as August runs into September?
In my view the fundamental problem is that the Tory party has still not grasped the great extent to which its post-war efforts to liberalise global trade have been successful, and fully understood that as an inevitable consequence special trade deals are no longer so important.
Before the EU referendum the Treasury produced gloomy projections of the economic impact of withdrawal, but even on their skewed model a special free trade deal with the EU would only be worth 1.3 percent of GDP.
That is to say, their central projection of the GDP loss if we left on WTO terms was 7.5 per cent, but if we left with a free trade agreement that would be mitigated to 6.2 per cent; take the second number from the first, and the difference is 1.3 percent.
And as that slight benefit would be spread over 15 years the annual effect would hardly be discernible in the context of a natural economic growth rate averaging 2.5 percent a year.
Various calculations value Boris Johnson’s favoured ‘Canada-style’ free trade agreement with the EU at about 1 per cent of GDP; it is really not worth further delay, let alone any concessions, to try to extract that paltry gain from an obstructive EU.
Dr D R COOPER
Belmont Park Avenue
Taking a mask to school in World War II
When I leave the house my wife calls ‘don't forget your face mask’.
It triggers my thoughts of my mother calling ‘don’t forget your gas mask’.
It is autumn 1939!
For some years my father had been commuting daily for his work between Walthamstow and Slough Trading Estate.
With the threat of German air raids he had managed to rent a bungalow in Royston Way, Burnham.
I am walking to the infant school in Dennis Way, Cippenham, with my gas mask in a cardboard box with string attached strung over my shoulder.
The pavements still had grass verges with plenty of apple and cherry trees.
Quite a contrast from London E17.
On many mornings I had to turn back having forgotten my gas mask.
With the current controversy over whether it is safe for our children to go back to school I recall one morning a bungalow in Dennis Way near the school gates had been demolished by an overnight German bomb.
The school remained open.
Despite wartime rationing every morning we had a small bottle of milk which in the winter was sometimes frozen.
In the school playground brick air raid shelters had been built.
Each shelter contained a tin of biscuits and boiled sweets for special treats during air raid warnings when we took to the shelters. Despite regular sirens warning of possible air raids the only time I remember not going to school was caused by an outbreak of infantileparalysis (polio).
I arrived at the school one morning with my gas mask to be examined by a doctor and nurse as I subsequently heard that the boy sitting next to me in class had died.
I cannot remember how long restrictions were in force and schools closed.
In a couple of years I moved across to the senior school in Elmshott Lane in Cippenham and we were no longer compelled to wear our gas masks.
The headmistress was Miss Miller, the headmaster Mr Santer but he had no connection with Father Christmas as I recall trembling with fear as he stroked his cane onto my hands.
I cannot recall what I had done wrong but this scenario happened more than once.
I remember three female teachers – Mrs Steer, a very strict stern lady, Mrs Turner with a lilting Welsh accent and above all Miss Jones.
The tide of war was turning in our favour and they stressed the need to be well educated for the post war period.
Miss Jones had a great enthusiasm for getting us through the so-called Oxford School Certificate with a large percentage going on to grammar school, in my case Sir William Borlase in Marlow.
If by chance there are any surviving relatives of those teachers I would like them to be aware of my gratitude for their dedication to us during those dark war years.
As children go back to school I hope they can quickly renew the routines of study and overcome the challenges that lie ahead while staying safe and healthy and not forgetting their face masks.
WILLIAM G GILBERT