“WE are no longer a community, we are an army!” – that was the message from frustrated residents who have endured four years of disruption on their roads.

It typified the mood of a meeting called to discuss the impact of Network Rail’s electrification work on Farnworth householders.

Thursday’s meeting was called by Kearsley councillor Mark Cunningham, and although passions ran high at times, it was generally agreed that progress had been made.

The problems began in 2014 when Network Rail announced it would need to re-bore railway tunnels to facilitate rail electrification.

This caused chaos for the residents of Church Road — where a compound was built to facilitate the works — and the surrounding streets.

HGVs and other traffic associated with the project infuriated those living locally, as did the dirt, noise, dust and sand caused by the tunnelling.

When the tunnelling work was finished, residents assumed the worst was over and that the compound would be closed down.

So. they were furious when they learned the compound would remain for use as a regional depot for the electrification works.

It meant contractors and subcontractors from across the Preston to Manchester electrification project arriving and departing the compound at all hours of the day and night.

Speaking at the meeting, one angry resident of Church Road said: “The workers are shouting and effing and blinding at each other. We’re left to cope with a barrage of bad language from these morons all night. When the day comes around we’re all totally shattered.”

However, it is the failure of those involved in the project to use a designated route to and from the compound that has prompted the most fury.

Instead of using a route that took in Rawson Street, Bridge Street and Clammerclough Road, the motorists are using Church Road and nearby side streets which residents claim is not only noisy, but dangerous as well.

“Me and my children were nearly killed by a speeding contractor,” a local resident told the meeting at Trinity Methodist Church on Market Street.

Another resident told the panel: “You’re full of empty promises and you have been for the last four years.”

He said he had monitored the noise levels with a decibel reader which registered 110 decibels – 25 decibels louder than it should be.

Principal environment and social value manager, Octavia Neeves, assured him she would investigate the matter.

Among those others attending the meeting was Andrew Morgan, senior sponsor for the Great North Rail Project.

He explained: “We have made a conscious effort to reduce the number of people going into the compound. We were using it as our central co-ordination point for much of the scheme. It was also being used for the guys to sign in from the whole route and those on night shift which is why there’s been so much activity round there.”

Mr Morgan added: “We’ve now moved staff signing-on points to other areas so there should be fewer people using this compound. We’re looking to move the duty management set up to a different location too.”

Cllr Cunningham acknowledged that the number of vehicles using the banned route had fallen over the last fortnight as a result of manned vehicles monitoring traffic.

However, he revealed that he found one of the monitors sleeping during his shift and another was on his break. Cllr Cunningham also said that word had soon got around that CCTV footage was not being checked.

He told Mr Morgan: “I appreciate that you’re trying, but certain things aren’t working. It’s hot air and no action. We’ve not only got liveried vehicles not using the agreed route, but a lot of contractors too. If anyone says anything to them they’re abusive. The speed that they travel at is a danger. You’ve got two schools and a nursery in this area.”

A solution would be to use a gated exit from the A666 for vehicles to access the compound directly.

Mr Morgan’s assurance that he would put this idea to the contractors’ senior managers this coming week received approval from the 31 residents who attended the meeting.

As did his pledge to get it into operation as quickly as possible.

Other key concerns raised included the many delays that have dogged the project.

An irate householder criticised Network Rail for not properly assessing the ground before work on laying foundations began.

Mr Morgan explained the it would have been unfeasible to dig trial holes and conduct ground investigations over such a long length between Preston and Manchester.

“We had to strike a balance with the amount we did,” he said. “We did that a couple of years ago based on historical information we know about the ground, the conditions, the mining in the area. We thought that we had the right solution.”

But he admitted that the project design had to be changed several times to accommodate unchartered historical mining work that had taken place.

“The last thing we want to do is put a pile in the ground, put the foundation in the ground and then for us not to be able to open that track the next day because we’ve hit an old coal seam that we’d then need to repair and keep the railway closed. We need to be sensitive to the ground conditions and sensitive to the equipment and machinery we use.”

One angry resident said his whole house vibrates when work is being carried out.

He said: “A neighbour of mine is in his 90s and on one occasion when the work began in the early hours, he was out in the street – he thought it was an earthquake it was that bad.”

Another resident took offence at how correspondence from Network Rail addressed him as “our railway neighbour”.

He told the panel: “If you’re a neighbour, you’re a neighbour from hell. You’ve not listened to us and we’re up to here with it.”

Another criticism levelled at Network Rail was that no work seemed to take place on Saturday and Sunday daytimes and that, instead, a lot of work was carried out in the early hours.

Communications director for Network Rail, Johnathan Cooke said: “When the railway is closed in the day, there might not be work taking place in this area but that’s not to say that were not working at other places on the line. Obviously, this means that we can’t run trains anywhere on this route.”

The meeting, which lasted for more than an hour, ended on a positive note with Mr Morgan guaranteeing that all the major work will be completed by Christmas and that the compound will be removed.

He also promised he would respond to matters raised by producing an action plan within 14 working days.

Speaking afterwards, Cllr Cunningham said: “I’m happy that they have agreed to giving us a response within 14 days and that they have agreed to a further meeting.

“It’s a shame that they’ve taken so long to get to this point, but it is progress.”