Wednesday 16 December 2020 5:44 pm

Crossrail failed to carry out survey work on historic Soho venue despite 'high risk' to punters

Crossrail failed to carry out survey work on a historic cellar bar in Soho despite receiving warnings from its own contractors that weak vaults posed a “high residual risk” to punters.

The report, which was carried out in 2016 by consultants WSP and has been seen by City A.M., says that the vaults in the basement of the London Gin Club were unsuitable to bear unrestricted traffic due to damage done by tunnelling work on the project.

Although Crossrail was instructed by WSP to survey the cellar before undertaking any further work on the project, engineers failed to do so.

That was despite a direct warning from WSP in a letter from 2018 saying that “the likelihood that damage to shallow cellar vaults present beneath the footway and carriageways may result in an accident is high”. 

It added that “potential consequences” of such an accident would be “severe”.

The failure to act on the warnings – which was first reported by Private Eye – came to light only after the London Gin Club was forced to close due to damage to the property back in January 2019.

At that time, rain began pouring into the cellar of the establishment through a crack caused by construction work on the road above, leading the venue’s owners to investigate.

Speaking to City A.M., owner Julia Forte said that if it had not been for the bar having to close due to the rain damage, the result could have been far worse.

“We did not know that the vault was vulnerable and that it had been classified as being at risk of collapse on the risk register”, she said.

“It could have been terrible if something had happened while people were inside. They were legally obliged to tell us there was a risk and they just didn’t.”

Forte added that there was a real danger that other underground properties in the area could also be at risk of a serious incident due to the project.

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Last month it was revealed in response to a Mayoral Question from Assembly Member Caroline Pidgeon that Crossrail had in fact discontinued its monitoring and updating of risk registers in May 2018 in anticipation of the project being completed on schedule.

When it became clear that the original date – December 2018 – would not be hit, Crossrail took steps to “remobilise” these resources in “early 2019”.

Forte said: “You have to ask – what other risks were missed over that period, in terms of health and safety, as a result of this colossal failure”.

She added that insurers are facing repair costs of over half a million pounds for the London Gin Club, which runs out of the famous Star Cafe near Tottenham Court Road station.

Crossrail accepted liability a year after the damage, but LGC’s insurers are currently overseeing all the works. 

But Forte remains concerned. “Our finances are shot to pieces”, she said. “And all because they could not take responsibility for what they failed to do”. 

Mark Wild, Crossrail chief executive, said: “I am very sorry for the disruption the London Gin Club has suffered. We are working closely with our insurers to do everything possible to expedite the insurance process. 

“I have personally been in regular contact with the Gin Club to keep them updated and we are making good progress.  I am confident that we can reach a satisfactory resolution.”

This month marks the two year anniversary of when the controversial project was due to open. TfL recently agreed a further £825m funding package with the government in order to finish the project, which is now billions over budget.

The opening date for the rail link, which will connect Reading to Shenfield, has now been pushed back to 2022.