Residents of Salisbury Road could hardly believe their eyes when they saw contractors re-installing white lines and parking bays -- the long-promised final task before the re-opening of their road after five miserable weeks of mayhem.
But then a fresh disaster struck – yet another water pipe leading to one of the houses sprang a leak prompting yet another 24-hour delay.
And if that was not enough, a 24-hour delay stretched to three days. Once the water leak was repaired, a nearby house lost power and contractors had to dig a trench across the brand new road.
Resurfacing of Salisbury Road carriageway turned into a prolonged nightmare for householders when catastrophe followed catastrophe and a five-day road closure spiralled into five weeks.
Residents Anna Robins (above, left) and Erica McCormick said they couldn’t wait for the removal of the barriers that have blockaded their road for so long.
“It’s been an absolute pleasure having a traffic-free road, but I fear we might all have withdrawal symptoms when the contractors finally call it a day,” said Ms Robins.
A catalogue of unforeseen events began when hydraulic fluid from a tipper lorry working in Salisbury Road leaked on to Stapylton Road and St Albans Road leading to horrendous traffic jams while sections of the two roads were resurfaced.
While that saga brought traffic around The Spires shopping centre to a halt, the real horror story was unfolding in Salisbury Road itself.
Rather than simply being resurfaced a road dating from the Victorian era required a full carriageway reconstruction because of Transport for London’s insistence that it should be strong enough to continue as a route for the 384-bus service from Edgware to Cockfosters.
But again, there has been another hitch: in view of doubts about the continued stability of the newly resurfaced carriageway a 7.5 tonne weight limit is being imposed on Salisbury Road until at least 31 January 2024.
It was the residents’ fury that their road had become a bus route that initially forced Barnet Council to embark on the work despite warnings that road excavations are best carried out during the summer months.
What turned the excavated road into a quagmire – and then a lake -- were days of heavy rain and a succession of leaks in pipes from the water main to individual houses.
Even when the resurfacing had been completed and the white lines were being re-installed, another leak required attention necessitating another delay in the final re-opening of the road.
The council and their contractor, Tarmac Kier Joint Venture, said that they had been working with Affinity Water to find a permanent solution to the leaks – but householders believe that will require the laying of a new water main.
But once the leak water was repaired, a nearby house lost its electricity supply and contractors from UK Power Network proceeded to dig a trench across the newly resurfaced road. An embarrassed employee of Tarmac Kier insisted the two holes would be repaired the following day and the road would finally reopen by 5pm on Friday 1 December.
Such has been the anger of the road’s residents – and continued traffic jams due to temporary traffic lights in Stapylton Road – that the Chipping Barnet MP Theresa Villiers visited the site and talked to householders.
Finally, as the delays lengthened, the Council was forced to apologise and admit the error of their ways in a letter to residents:
“The vibration from the machinery on the road surface during the works caused the aged water pipes to leak.”
Residents said this was a statement of the obvious: reconstructing the base of a road surface that was laid 150 years ago was bound to have an impact on the pipes and cables buried below.
Contractors aimed to limit the excavation to 300mm deep so as “not to disturb shallow services” but this was not the reality. Residents up and down the road experienced water shortages and power cuts.
Erica McCormick said that she had been forced to boil her water since 23 November and was still waiting for the all-clear that it was safe to drink.
Ms McCormick said that she and the other residents hadn’t given up their fight to get TfL to re-route the 384 away from Salisbury Road – a route that was introduced in 2020 when the 384 from Edgware to Cockfoster was routed along Alston Road and Salisbury Road.
“We believe Salisbury Road is too narrow for buses and we blame the deterioration in the road and the need for resurfacing on the failure of TfL to listen to local people.
“Because of the 7.5-ton weight limit, buses are banned from Salisbury Road until at least the end of January next year – and if we have our way they will never return.”
Both MP Theresa Villiers and High Barnet Councillor Emma Whysall have promised to take up residents’ concerns with TfL in a fresh attempt to get the 384 re-routed.