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Grantham councillor brands delays to Southern Relief Road "an embarrassment"

The council’s highways leader has branded the county’s relationship with Network Rail a “disappointment” and called the delays to Grantham’s Southern Relief Road “an embarrassment”.

Councillors on Lincolnshire County Council’s Highways Overview and Scrutiny Committee were being updated on the progress of a number of projects involving the rail service today when Councillor Davies launched into his scathing criticism.

Council officer Andy Gutherson told councillors that there were ongoing conversations over Compulsory Purchase Orders but said it “does look as though we’re close to an agreement” which could see the service withdraw their objections.

He added however: “There are some other outstanding objecting being worked through right to the wire.”

Councillor Davies said: “I find the relationship with Network Rail – personalities aside – disappointing. Whether it be for the Lincoln Eastern Bypass… or frankly what is an embarrassment in Grantham in terms of the approach and interactions and the way I feel Network Rail have worked with us.”

He said he felt that due to the regular talks and conversations with the service “nothing we do would be a surprise to anyone”.

“We’ve been talking to you about this project for 5/6 years and you wait until the statutory process to put a spanner in the works,” he said.

He criticised a number of last-minute “moving of the goalposts”.

“People are personally blaming me and citing me as incompetent because Network Rail wait until a formal Compulsory Purchase Order process to talk to us about things they want,” he added, saying it was a ‘little bit unfair’.

He did however, praise recent work by Network Rail’s Route Investment Director, Paul McKeown, who responded to Councillor Davies’ comments.

Mr McKeown said: “We recognise that we continue to need to improve our interface with local and regional organisations.”

He said the organisation was working to “put it right” and acknowledge future issues and developments.

He added that Network Rail did have a duty to tax payers.

“We have a value for money responsibility… we have to discharge those responsibilities accordingly,” he said.

Following the meeting, Councillor Davies said the “behemoths” of Highways England and Network Rail took difficulty to deal with to “a whole new level”.

He expressed frustration over delays in purchasing land, tax payers money going to Network Rail – another tax payer funded body – and ‘no good reason why we’re going to public inquiry over this road’.

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