Light relief: the Euston Puddle

[action at last! – December 2009 – but an ice hazard in January 2010. Serious action in February. See end of this post. For 2012 Olympic update see  ]

3 September 2009: For four decades I have been commuting daily through Euston in London where I (and thousands of others) walk to and from the station through a public garden, Euston Square. Just where we all pass through a narrow gap (between railings and a wall) there is a puddle. It’s been there for decades and looks like this
euston puddle nov 07.jpg [click the picture for more shots] On 2 September 2009 I decided to report it. I reported it on Fix My Street and within 24 hours I have had a phone call from a construction worker who was standing on Euston Road looking for the puddle.
I talked him through the steps needed to get there and he said he couldn’t sort it out because it was not in the Euston Road. He had been sent by Transport for London (TfL) Street Management who are responsible for Euston Road. But they are not responsible for Euston Square so he said he would report back. Quick response by wrong organisation.

We’ll see what happens. It could be Camden (the municipality). It could be Network Rail, the state-owned railway infrastructure enterprise. It could be the successors to Electricity Supply Nominees, the pension fund which owned the office blocks in front of the station, but later sold them. We’ll see.

Next day, September 4th, Micky Kenney from Ringway Jacobs, the same man who had vsited the site, made 3 more calls until he got me, to say that a team had gone there and had established that this spot “outside 190 Euston Road” belonged to Network Rail. All very thorough.

September 5: have written to my only contact inside Network Rail to ask her to join the hunt…. I have also reported it to Camden’s Parks and Open Spaces department via the report form on their web site…

September 7: My friend in Network Rail replies “Lovely to hear from you! That puddle and I have collided on many occasions; it sometimes decides to fill the whole path. I have consulted an agreement on the use and maintenance of Euston Square gardens dated 29th January 1981 which states that although Network Rail are the freeholder The Borough of Camden are responsible for the upkeep of the gardens and the paths within. I will consult our legal team and ask if I could scan and send the document to you for your campaign against soggy trouser bottoms. It is truly an appalling entrance to one of the UK’s largest and most heavily used stations.” and then later in the day… “Our legal team advise that if you do want a copy of the agreement you will require an Acknowledgement for Production (not that I know what that is) and if not you will need to describe why you need the document. Let me know if you wish to go ahead with this.” Well I have… Watch this space.

14 September: my friend in Network Rail writes: “…The legal department have now changed their mind and decided ‘it would not be appropriate’ for me to give you a copy of the agreement. They have advised, however to contact Government and Corporate Affairs if you would like them to take the matter up with Camden. A contact there is…” and I have now written to the contact. – NO RESULT.

6 November: Complained to Camden about getting no response to my September query. It’s a formal complaint so they should deal with it. 9 November Camden emails back “Thank you for your communication received via the website link. We have relayed it on today to Ms Turner in the Culture and Environment directorate so that she can get the appropriate highways officer to deal with it and reply direct to you. Central Complaints Unit (website filter), LB of Camden”

9 November. Camden again: “Mr Edwards, I have been advised by a colleague that the location is the responsibility of Network Rail. The contact details as per below are Telephone 08457114141, email Your correspondence has been forwarded onto them. Regards Katharine Turner
Senior Admin Officer Telephone: 020 7974 1909.” I think I’ll wait and see what NR says.

11 November: a corporate response from Network Rail:
Our Ref:SR2614916
Dear Michael Edwards, Thank you for e-mailing Network Rail. [ I hadn’t ]
Your enquiry has been passed to our local Community Relations team who are investigating the issue as quickly as possible. For your convenience, this enquiry has been assigned the unique Service Request number SR2614916. In the meantime, should you need to contact Network Rail again, please do not hesitate to call our 24-hour National Helpline on 08457 11 41 41 quoting the reference number provided.
Yours sincerely, Community Relations Team, Network Rail

25 November: Network Rail replies: Our ref: 2614916 Dear Mr Edwards
Thank you for your recent email via our website with regards to the above. I apologise for the delay in coming back to you.
I have made some enquiries with our staff at Euston who have advised that the gardens, and pathways outside the station are leased to the London Borough of Camden on a long term basis making them liable for this particular problem. Euston Station’s boundary is marked by the green posts around the edge of the Piazza. [ Can anyone find any green posts? Let me know. M.E. ]
Additionally the photograph on the website you highlighted shows a Camden bin by the puddle – such bins are not allowed on any Network Rail Managed Stations further suggesting that this is their issue to look into.
I hope this information is of some use.
Yours sincerely
Nicki Mayers
Community Relations
National Helpline: 08457 11 41 41

26 November I reply (cc Camden): Thanks Nicki: I’ll ask Camden to comment.
Katharine / Peter at Camden: this relates to my earlier complaint. Buck passes back to you. You said it was NR’s problem; they say it’s yours. We are getting quite close to a clear view of a breakdown in responsibility. Meanwhile the rainy season is here again.

1 December:  Camden (Turner, Katharine) wrote:  I have been advised by colleagues within C&E that this land is the responsibility of TfL – see attached email.  I am forwarding this on to TfL’s customer services. For info the email address is
Katharine Turner  Senior Admin Officer. And the attached email said:” Katharine,  The area where the puddle is situated is managed by TfL as part of the bus depot. The boundary line is where block paving changes in colour from one type to another.  I visited the site yesterday & we’ve got to clear the gulleys in the park, but the puddle on his website is the responsibility of TfL. Regards Peter Stewart Project Manager”

and I replied:  Thanks Katharine.  But it should be clear from the web log of events  that Camden sent my complaint to TfL in September and they very promptly replied to say that it was not their responsibility.  It is within a public park, NOT on the street, and well to the west of the bus station.
In tennis this is called a volley.  I call it buck passing.   Should we try to arrange a peace conference of all parties?

1 December.  Peter Stewart, project manager in Camden, wrote to Katharine Turner (who forwarded it to me) saying: “Katharine,  We’ve already cleared the area on Friday. I will ask for it to be cleared again.
I will also ask Sam Monck for a contact at TfL to meet on site & agree when they are going to put right their paving. I was contacted by them when they refurbished the bus terminus in 2006, which included the paved area where the puddle is. Unfortunately during the refurbishment they re-laid the block paving sloping towards our boundary wall, hence the puddle has appeared.
I’ve attached a plan showing the park boundary, the boundary line is in scarlet/purple colour & shows the park divided into parts divided by the bus terminus with the memorial in the middle.”

And I replied saying: “Thanks for trying to get this sorted out.  However I suspect—from the correspondence [above]— that your colleague Peter Stewart has in mind a different puddle – one much closer to the bus station. I can’t be sure because the map he sent does not show where responsibilities begin and end, or where any puddles are.  The puddle I am concerned about was there for many years—decades, even— before TfL did their terrible (for pedestrians) ‘refurbishment’  of the bus station in 2006 and was in no way affected by those works.   However if all this gets more puddles fixed, that will be grand.
If there is to be a site meeting of interested parties please include me (and Network Rail)  in it, otherwise I can see that there would be scope for further misunderstandings.
Please send this on to Peter Stewart:  I can’t extract his email address from the correspondence.” [She did.]

I also sent them a copy of the map with an arrow showing where “my” puddle is, and with the note: ”  The puddle is the result of both (a) a gulley which has been blocked for decades and (b) a tarmac path anyway laid to rise (rather than fall) towards the gulley.”

2 December.  My friend in Network Rail writes: “…. I’m surprised Camden are still disputing responsibility and so have sent the agreement between NR and Camden to Katharine Turner in the hope it may clarify matters as she has not seen it before.  I am not aware of a subsequent agreement between Camden and TfL which would transfer management responsibilities.  I shall watch this space! Or puddle as it may be.”  I replied to her and said that I thought the (¿) TfL puddle was a different puddle, a bit to the east.

10 December (or perhaps 9) someone has cleared the drain!  Here is the proof. gulley clear 091210.jpgIf the water actually drains away then the puddle will be less deep. It will remain as a shallow puddle just because of the fall (rise). Now I need to find out who did it. Will that be a secret too?

I wrote to them all, thanking whoever cleared the gulley. On 11 December TfL wrote:
Our Ref:1005480033
Dear Mr Edwards, Thank you for your e-mail dated 10 December regarding a gully outside Euston station. I appreciate you taking the time to send us your kind comments.
Our contractor Ringway Jacobs fixed the gully at Euston station and we are glad to hear you are happy with the remedial action undertaken. Rest assured I will pass your comments on to them. Once again, let me thank you for taking the time to contacting us. Yours sincerely Sara Reynaga, Customer Service Advisor – London Streets, Transport for London, Surface Transport Communications & Engagement, ticketno:[601228].

13 December I replied to TfL (with copies to the other authorities): Dear Sara, Thanks for your email. It’s good to know that it is your drain! It has taken 3 months to get the responsibility established. Does this mean that the whole of Euston Square Garden is TfL’s responsibility?
I did not say that I was “…happy with the remedial action”, just glad to see the gulley cleared. When it next rains we’ll see whether the gulley actually works. And even if it does, the puddle will remain, though at a smaller size, because the surface does not slope down towards the gulley, but UP. Michael Edwards

21 December. TfL responds to my thanks: Our Ref:1005398367 Dear Mr Edwards
Thank you for copying us in on your emails to Katharine Turner, with regard to the ownership of the land at Euston Station. We checked our records thoroughly and the land in question is not under our responsibility, even though our contractor attended the gully. We maintain Euston Square, carriageway and footway which on inspection was not flooded. From the picture provided, this falls within Euston Square gardens.
I am sorry not to be able to assist on this occasion. I hope the issue with ownership will get resolved soon.
Yours sincerely Eva Rozmahelova, Customer Service Advisor – London Streets, Transport for London, Surface Transport Communications & Engagement.

puddle100106web.gif6 January 2010. A snowy, slushy day and water forming up again in the puddle. The depth isn’t yet enough for any water to spill over into the newly-cleared gulley, so we can’t tell whether it drains away.

Now, 8 January, the puddle is only small but it’s frozen and someone has accepted that it’s a safety hazard by placing cones and tape around it. euston puddle as ice 100108.JPG

11 January.  Camden replies to an email I sent yesterday. They write “Dear Mr. Edwards, An order has been placed for repair works to this hardstanding area at Euston Square Gardens. This was done before Christmas. Unfortunately the works have not been able to be undertaken due to the freezing temperatures. The works will be undertaken as soon as temperatures allow. A maintenance team has been sent out today to clear the gulleys and remove the ice and standing water from the area.
Regards Peter Stewart Project Manager.”

I replied: “Delighted to hear that Camden has placed an order for repairs.  This confirms that Camden is the responsible body and that  removes the uncertainty I had when TfL recently said their contractors had cleared the gully even though it was not their responsibility.
In the mean time I can’t see much point in clearing the gully again, and even less point in clearing the ice and standing water since there is always the chance that precipitation may happen again.”

2 February 2010 Camden writes: “Dear Mr Edwards we installed a fast flow channel on saturday which was damaged some time over the weekend and we are relaying today, the next step is to relay a stretch of tarmac which should cure the problem but we can,t carry out this repair untill next saturday oweing to the amount of pedestrian traffic during the week  thanks Geoff Hill , Projects Development Officer Culture and Sport  London Borough of Camden.”  What is a ‘fast flow channel’?  I can’t see one.  But there was a man there yesterday with a bucket of mortar.

Sixth month now starting.  Later:  the ‘fast flow channel’ is a channel across the path with a gridded lid.  It is graced with signs by Skanska so we have a giant multinational at work here.  The man who did the mortaring was fed up because people kept on walking in his soft mortar and he had to re-do it.  Why didn’t he cover it?

channel on 4 Feb, with damaged mortar.
channel on 4 Feb, with damaged mortar.

6/7 Feb during the weekend an area of tarmac was re-laid, as promised.  We’ll see if it works.  The story may be over.

19 February: it has been raining this week so it’s now possible to see that the puddle remains.  It is smaller than before because some of the new tarmac is just above the new equilibrum water level set by the gullies. Parts of the new tarmac and of the surrounding old tarmac are still below water level, however.  Thus pedstrians still hop or skirt around to avoid it. The people doing the new tarmac could and should have replaced a much larger area and given it a substantial camber.  Anyone would think rainwater was a new problem.  I am sorry I did not meet the workers doing it. If they were intelligent or experienced people they would have known they were doing a duff job, so I suspect that had orders to do it in precisely this inadequate way.  I’ll add a current photo here. It’s a bit like a too-small patch on a pair of jeans…

Next step in the saga: September 2010

Author: Editors


7 thoughts on “Light relief: the Euston Puddle”

  1. Love it. It only took four decades to annoy you enough to chase it up. I wonder if you are the first of if others tried and gave up…


  2. Since I posted this, various acquaintances have have reported feeling the same over years and years. I haven’t come across anyone who tried to get it fixed, though. And – as you see – there is no effective response from official channels.


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