Council and Network Rail at loggerheads over responsiblity for flooding under Clapham bridge

Lovell Road railway bridge Clapham. Image: Bedford Borough Council
Railway bridge over Lovell Road, Clapham. Image: Bedford Borough Council

Bedford Borough Council says it has been left with no alternative but to take legal action against Network Rail regarding ongoing flooding issues under a railway bridge in Clapham.

However, Network Rail maintains that the Borough Council is responsible.

The Council says it is having to pursue Network Rail under the Land Drainage Act in response to flooding under the railway bridge on Lovell Road in Clapham.

The bridge is an essential pedestrian route for children walking from Clapham to schools in Oakley and they are often forced to balance on the kerb to avoid arriving at school with wet shoes, socks and feet.

“When it gets very bad, teachers from the school have even come to collect them in minibuses,” one parent told the Bedford Independent.

“And there are always people who drive through recklessly and purposely to splash the kids too.”

Drainage failure

The council say the flooding is caused by the failure of the drainage network situated on Network Rail’s land next to the railway bridge and that despite numerous appeals and request to Network Rail, a “resolution has not been achieved”.

Cllr Jim Weir, portfolio holder for environment, highways, and transport at Bedford Borough Council, said: “The flooding issue under the railway bridge on Lovell Road has been a matter of serious concern for our community for several months, if not years.

“The failure of the drainage network on Network Rail’s land poses a direct threat to the safety of pedestrians, especially children accessing schools in Oakley from Clapham, and motorists who use this route.”

In a statement, a spokesperson for Bedford Borough Council told the Bedford Independent: “The local authority is [regularly] spending between £5,000 and £6,000 per downpour to pump this water away.

“Due to the issues with the system it then often refills as quickly as water can be pumped away.”

The Council said that it will be expecting Network Rail to provide the funds for a temporary footway/bridge under the railway bridge to provide an “essential walking route to the school for the children who have no feasible alternative”.

However, Network Rail maintains that Bedford Borough Council is responsible.

A Network Rail spokesperson said: “As discussed with Bedford Borough Council, Network Rail’s position is that Bedford Borough Council are responsible for the issue with the highways drain.

“However, Network Rail is seeking to engage with Bedford Borough Council regarding the highways drain with a view to resolving the issue, noting the urgency.”

Bedford Borough Council maintain that the flooding is “caused by a poorly maintained and life expired drainage system that is located on the operational railway (maintained exclusively by Network Rail).

“This causes rain and stormwater to backfill into the highway drains under the bridge.

“As the highway authority, we have been lobbying Network Rail for well over two years for either access to the system to repair it or for them to initiate the works themselves.”

The Council says it remains committed to finding a swift and effective solution in collaboration with Network Rail.

A Bedford Borough Liberal Democrat spokesperson said that under the previous administration, officers were trying to negotiate access and assistance from Network Rail to resolve the flooding issues.

“Legal action was seen as a last resort due to the costs but this was something that we were considering as a next step if a solution couldn’t be found.”