Thursday 18 May 2023

Triple Tunnel Troubles (More Tunnel 1)

It Collapsed!

In 2005 the near complete "Tesco Tunnel" at Gerrards Cross began to collapse. Fortunately nearby trains were approaching the station in order to make a stop or were at the platform and were able to come to a stand well short of the rubble which fell.

From a distance the hole looks bad, but not atrociously bad.
But the closer you get ...
... the worse it looks.
And fom track level ...
It was definitely not good news.

At this point it is worth understanding how the tunnel was built.
Load bearing walls were built beside the tracks and arch segments were craned into place ...
... which formed the shell of the tunnel.

The first job after the collapse was to remove the debris ...
... and then demolish and/or remove the arch segments where it was considered that there might be a risk of further collapse.
This activity was prompted by the obvious fact that the collapsed bit was where the spoil infill was being tipped on to the arches to make a nice base for Mr Tesco's shiny new store and car park. So all the segments and their incomplete infill work were removed; leaving a shiny new tunnel with a large gap!
It remained so until 2007 when new contractors were appointed to rebuild the missing bit and finish the job.

What was strange about the whole kerfuffle was that the report on the cause of the collapse was, apparently. not to be published! It was only through the efforts of a local resident, the freedom of informational legislation and dogged persistence that the report was - eventually - released into the public domain.

So what did go wrong?

One thought was instigated by a late change in the plans. Originally it was to be a two-track tunnel; but later it was changed to allow a return to the older four-track layout ...
... at some future date. Was this change of plan bodged? Apparently not - all revised stresses were correctly calculated for the wider arch.

The report is lengthy and technical, very technical, as you would expect. To understand it completely, you need to stand on a tray of eggs!
So was the arch not strong enough for the tonnes of crud to be heaped upon it?

As far as fbb can tell it was all OK. But the strength of an arch relies on downward pressure transmitted from the top of the arch round the curves to the side supports. In theory, at least, you would need to apply the load evenly from the peak of the arch and then out to the edges.
But if the infill was filled in from the sides of the arch first ...

... the egg could crack and collapse. And it did. You would find it much more difficult (and messy!) to stand on a tray of eggs if they were laid sideways rather than on end.

The new contractor actually won some sort of award for sorting it out.
Tesco dropped its original contractors, Jackson Civil Engineering, after the railway tunnel collapsed and narrowly missed a commuter train.

Designers URS/Scott Wilson, along with construction firm Costain, then agreed to take on the project, which saw a Tesco supermarket finally built above the tunnel last year.

At the recent ACE Engineering Excellence Awards in London, URS/Scott Wilson won the Infrastructure category, for the “complex, high-pressure project that required the winning of confidence of the public and the rail industry”.

So you would guess that it won't collapse again.

Just for the record, a sample of trains stopping at Gerrards Crosss, in this case on a Saturday.
The two faster trains continue to Oxford. Trains whizz by to Birmingham and Solihull.

And a picture that summarises these two Tesco Tunnel blogs!

Modelling Achievement - Possibly
After a bout of frustration, not yet over, fbb spent a happy morning yesterday refettling the pub and church module that sits in top of Peterville Tunnel.

The lighting has been properly re-installed and looks OK
The pub has beome welcoming once again.

The weird internally illuminated artwork outside the church door is taller and its base disguised in part with shrubs.
The big advantage of being inside, rather than out in the rain, is that you can hold everything in place with BluTac, either round the back where no one can see it, or ...
... in full view disguised by bits of vegetation.
This bodge will allow the buildings to be removed for additional painting and detailing in due course.

It's mornings like that which make modelling a delight.

Puzzle Pictures
Which stations and where? Both have been expunged from history.

Fairly obviously both were termini.

 Next Tunnels blog  : Friday 19th May 


  1. The second station looks like Glasgow St Enoch

    1. Agreed. So by process of elimination, is the other picture of Buchanan Street?

    2. It would appear so

  2. Andrew Kleissner18 May 2023 at 12:09

    Yes, it is. I first thought (because it's an aerial view) that it was Blackpool Central, or perhgaps the old Blacvkpool North with the Excursion Platforms to the side. And - having visited St Enoch after it closed but before it was demolished - I hadn't realised it had a second arch and so wondered if we were looking at Bradford Exchange. I woz wrong! Incidentally the Gerrards Cross report is available at and makes interesting, if disturbing, reading. It shows how apparently minor changes to materials and procedures, together with somewhat lackadaisical monitoring, led to disaster. The potential for multiple fatalities was great and only prevented by keen observation and swift reactions on the part of two train drivers (together with a lighting fault inside the tunnel which meant that no-one was working inside it at the time).