Struggling Abbey Wood businesses say they are being “crucified” by the ongoing delays to the opening of Crossrail.
The major transport link was supposed to be up and running from December last year, but a series of controversial pushbacks have seen it delayed until spring 2020 at the earliest – and maybe as late as the following the year.
Shops and businesses in Wilton Road, just yards from the station, say their parade has been forgotten. They say the delays have turned people off Abbey Wood, and that their shops have been left hidden without enough advertising.
Workers said nobody was coming to Abbey Wood, and something that was meant to boost their livelihoods has become a hindrance.
Linda Williams has worked in West End Styles since she was 13, and said she has never seen the parade so quiet.
“Look at me now”, Mrs Williams said as she sat in an empty hairdressers.
“I used to have seven or eight girls work for me. There’s nowhere for people to park. In the end, they’ll go somewhere else.
“Crossrail have cut us out. You can’t even see us here. The footfall goes over the flyover – we have asked for boards to be put up to tell people the shops are here. We are stuck. A non-entity. Closed off.
“We used to be in the main entry to the station. We’ve got nothing now. We used to have customers walking in all the time. My accountant said we might as well close and I’ll go work in Sainsbury’s.
“The latest delay is horrendous. It is taking them forever to do anything. It’s been an absolute nightmare. We’ve been forgotten. We should be the main thoroughfare into the station, but we are nothing. What benefits have we had except being crucified?”
Next door, in Occasions, a florist and card shop, the picture is the same.
“We’ve been here for 29 years”, shop owner Tariq Rachid said, “I wish they never started here. It’s absolutely dead.
“People don’t walk in. There’s no respite for us. It’s disrupting our businesses to the degree that some of these shops will go. Everyone is suffering down here tremendously. It’s just on and on – no respite, more delays, more machinery taking up parking, preventing our customers.
“As a result, they’ve gone elsewhere. Maybe they’ll come back but honestly, I don’t think so.”
In some cases, businesses pumped a lot of money into their ventures preparing for the arrival of Crossrail, only to be left wondering how they will recoup their investment.
Nim Bhadare set up Abbey Wood Minicabs at around the same time Crossrail began preparations, seeing it as a good opportunity.
Today, he is not so sure. He said Crossrail has become a taboo word on Wilton Road.
He said: “Nothing was told to us – I am only a small businesses, but I was planning well ahead to deal with the demand.
“We invested the best part of £50k for a new system, launching a new app and recruiting new staff and training them because we knew we had to do that in advance.
“September was a big blow to us. It was like they were making things up as they went along. They’re playing with us. Nothing has come on time. If it was autumn 2019, we could have swallowed that bitter pill, but they’re talking about as late as 2021. We have to find the funds to deal with this.
“You’re playing with people’s lives. Will I survive 2021? It’s going to be difficult for us.”
Louie French, Bexley Council’s deputy leader, said the authority was extremely disappointed by the impact of Crossrail’s delay.
He said: “Bexley has long supported the Crossrail project and our Growth strategy is predicated on major improvements to our infrastructure and increased connectivity, which will help deliver new homes and opportunities for local people.
“However, the mayor of London’s complete mismanagement of Crossrail and focus on virtue signalling rather than the day job, has created major financial headwinds for Transport for London, resulting in cancellations and cuts to tube upgrades, bus services, road maintenance and road safety.
“For the sake of all Londoners, I hope that the mayor will now focus on delivering this vital infrastructure project or quickly make way for someone that will.”
A spokesman for Crossrail said: “We share the frustration of residents and businesses in Abbey Wood that the huge benefits of the Elizabeth line are not yet with us.
“A new plan to complete the railway and bring the Elizabeth line into passenger service at the earliest possible date has been developed by the new leadership team.
“The Elizabeth line will deliver substantial benefits for Abbey Wood and London including much needed additional rail capacity, new journey opportunities and reduced journey times and will support regeneration along the route.
“Everyone involved in the Crossrail project is fully focused on ensuring the Elizabeth line is completed as quickly as possible.”
Tom Bull is the Local Democracy Reporter for Greenwich and Bexley. The Local Democracy Reporter Service is a BBC-funded initiative to ensure councils are covered properly in local media.
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