Happenings at Tesco Tunnel
Gerrards Cross
A part of Guy Gorton's website

This is an update to the story of the construction, collapse and recovery of the tunnel constructed over the Chiltern line at Gerrards Cross to permit the building of a Tesco store.  Just to remind those who have lost touch with this saga, bitterly opposed Planning Permission was obtained followed by preliminary drilling in 1999, work started by contractors Jackson in 2003, the completed tunnel structure partially collapsed on June 30 2005.  Costain were already on-site erecting the store itself as a sub-contractor and took over the whole contract in 2006.  Quiet maintenance and investigation occupied 2007 and in to 2008.  This page pulls together some of the activities in 2008 which have been on a larger scale that many people realise.

The page is organised along topic lines, rather than chronologically, and starts with the removal of the Tesco store framework, beginning in March end ending in May.  Other topics include site access changes, a few trains and the present main project to enable a crane to replace the missing segments.

Click on a thumbnail to see a larger image.   You can go the TescoTunnel home page here.

Removal of the store structure.

 frame 1
Some bits of the framework were removed in 2005 to allow clearance of the fill material over the tunnel crown
but most of it was still present in March 2008.  Removal seemed a much more difficult task than the original erection because Network Rail was taking a stringently low-risk position, insisting that any work involving lifting near the exposed tunnel crown  could only be done within a Possession which meant nightwork.
The safety netting used in 2005 was still in place but was replaced as being life-expired.

frame 2 Dismantling began in earnest with the northern part of the frame, which should have been in use as the store entrance for nearly three years by now.   In many of these pictures, you will see Costain's obsession with safety, not only of its people but of site structures.

frame 3 The frontage along Packhorse Road is still behind the bridge parapet which should have long since gone.  The middle two verticals here are supported on temporary steel beams so that a safe access route had to be created for the dismantling job because of the considerable void under the framework at this point.

frame 4 A piece of the framework is removed carefully.  Note the man watching the operation.  I have not seen a piece of machinery operating unless it is supervised or observed from outside the machine, sometimes by more than one man.  The only exceptions seem to be simple tranportation devices such as dump trucks.

frame 5 Some people had high-level work to do wearing a safety harness.

frame 6 Exploratory drillings continued while the framework was being dismantled.  Note the line of concrete panels guarding the allowed route for the drilling machines.

frame 7 The southern frame is stripped to the simple basic structure and will be gone in a few days.  The temporary steel beams referred to previously are visible here.

frame 8 A truck is ready to take some of the framework pieces back to Norfolk where they came from in the first place. The steel framework in the foreground spanned the space over the tunnel crown where the fill material had been removed.  The verticals where burned off rather than being unbolted and will presumably have to be fabricated again.

ftrame 9 All the framework verticals were attached to concrete pads sunk in to the fill material.  The pads were levered out and stockpiled for removal by trucks.

frame 10 The pads varied a lot in size and some were cut in half with this handy angle grinder before being extracted.

Access to the site and within it is changing.

access01 In April a prefabricated bridge was delivered and soon erected between the north and south sides of the construction sitte.  Until this event, only very small machinery could be moved over the crown of the tunnel segments and as only the north side of the site has access from the road, the southern side was quite isolated.
A note about orientation.  If you take the train through Gerrards Cross to local places like High Wycombe, passengers think of themselves as going to the west, whereas those going to Birmingham and beyond are travelling north.  In fact the line goes through GX almost exactly on a SE to NW axis so, to save complicated language, we think of the tunnel being on an east - west axis. 

access02 The new bridge spans the cleared crown of the tunnel, with bases well back from the tunnel segments.

Access03 Here is the finished bridge from the south side.  There are some other points of interest in these pictures.  In the first one, the original Costain site office cabins are visible and they will appear in this story again later. On the other side of the bridge in this one you can see a road trailer being loaded with dismantled framework pieces - the white bags are big soft cushions spread along both sides ot the trailer to catch anyone falling off it.

access 11 Before the bridge, a piece of equipment like this, working on stabilising the southern cutting side, had to be delivered by a complex process.   This was in March 2007.

acce3ss12 West of the main road bridge that divides the main eastern part of the site from the smaller western part, there is space for a large crane.  Its task was to lift machinery over the railway during an overnight Possession.

access13 The next morning, this machinery is waiting to move from the west site to east site, but it is not an easy journey.

access14 The fill material beyond the southern arch of the road bridge was cleared just enough to create a very steep access route to the southern side of the main site.  Of course, when the work of the machinery completed, the crane had to be brought back and the whole process gone through again in reverse.

Trains are running all the time - here are a few examples.

train01 A Chiltern Railways 165 runs west, or north if you prefer.  The amount of time available to observe works on the site from a passing train is very brief.  There is no view of the works before entering the tunnels from either end.

train02 A WSMR set heads towards London.

train 03
A Down WSMR service slips through the eastern tunnel.

train 04 This is the interior of the eastern tunnel.  At this point the two tracks are hard over to the right of the arch, but they slew across to the left to join the alignment of the original double track mainline.  There is room for a 4-track railway, with catenary, through the tunnel.

train05 Above the tunnel, work is underway in January.  The fill material was removed in 2005 down to the level of the stitching beam, seen here along the centre of the picture.  Here men are digging out fill material to allow measuring instruments to be placed each side of the stitching beam.

train 06 Later in the year, some fill material was carefully returned to the tunnel crown to stabilise its shape and position.  By September, more had been added, but the stitching beam was left exposed in the locations being excavated in the previous picture.

Project to replace missing tunnel segments.

A project scheduled to take 22 weeks is underway to enable replacement tunnel segments to be positioned by a mobile crane.  Preparation work includes reshaping the ground to give stable positions for the crane, creating suitable access routes and piling to support itthe cranes.

project01 In July the site looked like this.  The blue site office cabins in their original location, quite narrow tracks each side of the gap and steep access slopes.  Much of this scene was soon to change.

project 02 The site cabins were removed and erected elsewhere.  This allowed the north cutting side to be reshaped, leaving the old cabin foundations standing proud.   This made a wider space at the base of the cutting.

Originally, these cabins housed all the Costain people involved in erecting the store itself, but managament, professional and technical staff have moved to an office suite in Station Road that overlooks the site.

project 03

Shaping the access route with the site cabins in their new location on the right.

project 04
Meanwhile on the south side of the site, strong supports have been put in place to make the route along the railway strong enough for the work to come.

project 05

Shaping the access route on the south side.

project 11
This machine has been on-site for a while, boring large and deep holes for supporting piles.  Here it is at the western end of the northern side of the segment gap.  An interesting feature is that it is entirely controlled by a hand-held device, including its movements round the site.

project 12 The boring machine made a hole here, perhaps more than one, and now reinforcing wire is being lowered into it.  One set is held up with a shaft across the hole while another is lifted and attached, before the assembly is again lowered into the hole.

The boring machine is in the distance where the previous picture placed it.

project 13
The next set of wires is being attached to the earlier set.  This give some idea of the depth of the bore.

This link will take you to a page created in 2006 about the cranes used to place the original tunnel segments.

As and when new developments become apparent I will attempt to incorporate them in the page.

You can go the TescoTunnel home page here.

Revised Jan 2009
Pictures and text © Guy Gorton 2008