Crossrail moves earth for RSPB reserve

Crossrail workers celebrate shifting the one millionth tonne of excavated earth via rail. Photo: Crossrail.
Crossrail workers celebrate shifting the one millionth tonne of excavated earth via rail. Photo: Crossrail.
One million tonnes of earth have now been removed from the new tunnels of London's Crossrail transport scheme, and are being used to build habitat at the new Wallasea Island RSPB reserve in Essex.

The 55 million-year-old earth has left Crossrail’s tunnel entrance at Westbourne Park in west London, having been removed during the construction of Crossrail’s western tunnels between Royal Oak and Farringdon by two giant 1,000-tonne tunnel-boring machines.

Over the past 15 months, more than 860 train loads of excavated material have been transported to Northfleet in Kent by GB Railfreight. The material has then been transferred to ship and transported to the new nature reserve.The earth will be used to create a new wetland on Wallasea Island. A total of 4.5 million tonnes of excavated material from Crossrail’s new tunnels and stations will eventually be used to create Britain's most ambitious manmade coastal nature project. The RSPB will require about 10 million tonnes in total of excavated material to create the new 1,500-acre reserve, which will be the largest new wetland nature reserve in Europe for some 50 years.

Earth on conveyer at Westbourne Park. Photo: Crossrail.

When Crossrail opens it is expected to  increase London's rail-based transport network capacity by 10 per cent, supporting regeneration and cutting journey times across the city, at an estimated cost of £14.8 billion. Crossrail services are timetabled to commence through central London in 2018, and the route will pass through 38 stations and run over 70 miles from Maidenhead, Berkshire, and Heathrow, Middlesex, in the west through new twin-bore, 13-mile tunnels to Shenfield, Essex, and Abbey Wood, Gtr London, in the east.

Andy Alder, Crossrail’s Western Tunnels Project Manager, said: “One million tonnes of excavated material has now been transported, removing thousands of lorry journeys from London’s busy streets. Crossrail will not only deliver a new railway for London and the South-East but will leave the legacy of a new nature reserve that will be enjoyed for generations to come.”

Crossrail will excavate about six million tonnes of material during the construction of stations and its 13 miles of twin-bore tunnels. Close to 100 per cent of the excavated material is expected to be clean, uncontaminated and reusable elsewhere. The RSPB reserve will guarantee a place for tens of thousands of migratory birds, and combat the threats from climate change and coastal flooding.

The GB Railfreight train carrying the one millionth tonne of excavated material, and hauled by loco 66744, left Westbourne Park at 09:20 and arrived at Northfleet at 12:30.