The ongoing saga of a flooded High Wycombe underpass should leave Bucks County Council “ashamed”, a commuter who regularly uses it has said this week.
The Abbey Way underpass, which is on the High Wycombe heritage trail and acts as a safe passage under the A40 for those heading between Queen Victoria Road and The Rye, is regularly submerged under metres of water when it rains.
The pedestrian underpass is usually well-used by parents and young children, commuters and cyclists – but it has had to be shut numerous times because it becomes completely filled with stagnant water.
Complaints about the underpass have been reported in the Bucks Free Press as far back as 2002, when parents feared the flooding could lead to the death of a child.
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Every time Transport for Bucks (TfB) has been approached for comment on the recurring problem by the Bucks Free Press, they have blamed issues with the underpass pumping system - saying they were working with a specialist pump company.
This week, frustrated commuter Marcus Lambert, who parks at Railway Place car park and uses the subway as part of his journey to and from London, told this paper he was “shocked” this week to see that, after storms Ciara and Dennis, the water filling the subway was actually visible from the A40 – meaning the underpass was “absolutely full to the brim”.
He said: “It got to a point where I thought the council had given up on it and this was to be 'a new feature of the town'. However, on Saturday, February 8, to my amazement, there was a large vacuum truck busy sucking all of the water out of the underpass. It was completely drained.
“The following Monday (10th February) the barriers had been removed and we were back in action. The heritage path was reopened and had overcome another water-filled few months, it was cleaned up presumably at some cost to the council and taxpayer.
“It was looking like the onsite pump which is designed to clear the underpass constantly to ensure that it doesn't fill with water was purring away nicely.
“Unfortunately this was not to last long, as when I was commuting to work on Monday the 17th, exactly one week later, the underpass was full again.”
Mr Lambert said TfB “should be ashamed”, adding: “The cost of constant drainage lorries and cleaning teams restoring the underpass, for it to only refill days after, and start the cycle again makes absolutely no sense - and what is more, this is obviously costing the Wycombe taxpayer.
“The council needs to install a new pump which is capable of the task. The green-box housing the pump features an orange beacon which flashes in times of a blockage or failure, this is currently flashing again. So, there is no hiding what the issue actually is.”
In response to the fresh concerns, a spokesman for TfB said: “TfB have experienced flooding within some of our subways during the recent significant and prolonged rainfall.
“Subways in Aylesbury, Chesham, Chalfont St Peter and High Wycombe have been affected. TfB have telemetry flood alert systems within the subways throughout the county, which notify our workforce when the pumping equipment is not functioning as intended and/or when they are being overworked.
“As part of this alert system our workforce attends to determine actions which may need to be taken to repair equipment, or if the flooding is simply a result of water volume, as it can take time for the pumping equipment to deal with large volumes of water.
“During the past few weeks we have been constantly monitoring the condition of our subways and doing our best to keep our subways open to the general public.
“When flooding does occur we must of course close the subway to ensure the safety and welfare of users. We would note that there is a crossing available nearby to this location which pedestrians can use as a suitable alternative.
“When high water volumes ingress the subway, there is often a lot of detritus/sludge which can adversely affect operation. This subway is particularly prone to such effects. We are looking at potential enhancements to equipment which may reduce this risk.
“TfB remain committed to keeping our subways accessible and as safe as reasonably possible for users.”