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As reported in last week's ATG, work to construct a large grout shaft barely yards from the front entrance of the Mayfair premises will take between six and eight weeks, but traders learned at a meeting last week that an even longer period will be required to implant a series of smaller underground pipes spreading out from the central shaft.

It means that hoardings over two metres high will surround the front of Grays for at least five months.

The process is required to firm up the ground during tunnelling work for the new cross-London train line (scheduled to open in 2017), but most dealers only became aware of these works three weeks ago.

Up to 40 traders, accompanied by Grays' operations manager Neil Jackson, raised concerns with the Crossrail representatives at a meeting on June 6. They fear business will suffer.

Crucially, there will be no direct line for pedestrians to walk to Grays from both the Oxford Street throughfare and the exit at Bond Street tube station. This could hit business considerably since the centre relies on footfall for over half its trade.

However, Crossrail have decided not to begin digging the 15m-deep shaft until the utility works currently taking place in Davies Street have been completed and the road is reopened. The work on the shaft and the underground grouting pipes is now scheduled for September 23 to March 1.

Crossrail are also planning to replace the upper half of the hoardings with transparent Perspex to improve sight lines once the initial shaft has been dug out.

With regards to the inadequate signage for the centre, Crossrail's area community relations officer Stephen Deaville told ATG that there would be improved signs during this new phase of development and that they would be at eye level on the hoardings. Dealers were keen to stress the importance of more visible and attractive signage, but the size and layout of the signs nearest the tube station are set to a uniform standard across all Crossrail sites in London.

Since Crossrail cannot favour one business over another, the signs for Grays will continue to be shared with a nearby pub, a restaurant and a sandwich bar. This is in spite of the fact that, in effect, Grays represents over 100 small businesses.

However, Crossrail indicated that there may be options available for separate signs facing the antiques centre itself.

By Alex Capon