DEALERS at Grays antiques centre in central London are fearing further damage to business as the massive Crossrail project at Bond Street enters a new stage this summer.
Traders say that the works, which started last year, have already caused significant disruption and they are now worried that the drilling of a large shaft a few yards from the front entrance of Grays will have a major impact.
Scheduled to start later this month, five 'grout shafts' are being constructed around the Bond Street area in order to firm up the ground during tunnelling work. The hole being dug on the corner of Davies Street and South Molton Lane will be at least 4m wide and 15m deep, and the hoardings required during the excavation period will be less than two metres from Grays' main entrance.
On top of this there will be the noise, fumes and vibrations caused as lorries remove large amounts of debris.
With over 100 traders currently operating in the centre, Grays jewellery dealer Anthea Gesua said: "We have been battling this for months and now an enormous plant will obliterate access through our front door. We are surrounded here by Crossrail and are having a tough time."
Fellow jewellery dealer Robin Haydock said: "The work has already affected business and is likely to get worse. It comes in the middle of the tourist season and so we're being doubly hit."
Signage is also an issue. The dealers want signs directing shoppers to Grays on the current hoardings made larger and more attractive - at one point they were handwritten in pen.
Crossrail have already met the centre's landlords where concerns were raised but a meeting set for this week will allow dealers to put their case directly.
Crossrail say they are keen to minimise disruption and will continue to monitor vibration and noise levels. They say the works on the grout shafts will last for six to eight weeks and that larger hoardings will only be used during the construction part of the process.
However, the dealers are expecting the works to take longer and fear that disruption will be an ongoing problem until the Crossrail project is finished in 2017.
By Alex Capon