Tunnel collapse puts £20m store in doubt
The Guardian: July 1, 2005
Construction of a £20m Tesco supermarket which was being built on top of a railway tunnel was thrown into doubt last night after the tunnel collapsed.
Tonnes of rubble spilled on to the line at Gerrards Cross in Buckinghamshire just before 8pm, causing disruption to Chiltern Railway services. Commuters on the Midlands to London line face at least two days of travel chaos.
One of the company's drivers, whose train was in Gerrards Cross station at the time, raised the alarm, and trains on the line between Marylebone station in London and Birmingham were immediately halted.
No one is thought to have been injured in the collapse. Safety inspectors were examining the scene last night and passengers have been warned to expect severe disruptions while they try to discover what caused the collapse.
British Transport police said the line would be blocked for at least two days.
A spokesman for Chiltern Railways said last night: "No one has been injured and there were no trains in the tunnel when it collapsed. Passengers are being advised to travel via alternative routes and buses have been ordered. We are currently putting arrangements in place to minimise disruption."
Tesco's plans to put a supermarket on the site in Gerrards Cross had prompted protests from local residents who feared the new store would act as a traffic magnet and dominate the area.
Work on the site had been taking place during five-hour shifts at night after the last trains to and from London had gone at 1am.
Once the site was clear, lorries and cranes brought in the 400 concrete arches needed to support hundreds of thousands of tonnes of earth, rubble, and the new store itself.
A Tesco spokeswoman said: "We can confirm that a section of rail tunnel at our new Gerrards Cross site has collapsed. Thankfully, we understand that no one has been hurt but rail services are obviously disrupted, for which we apologise. We have launched an ur gent investigation with our engineer contractors and will work with the authorities to understand what happened and get rail services back to normal as soon as possible."
She said the new supermarket was in the "very early" stages of construction.
Chris Waterman, who was on his way home when he heard about the collapse, had to catch a train to Amersham instead of Gerrards Cross.
"What I can't believe, having gone under these concrete arches, is that the engineers could have got it so wrong," he said. "But I suppose it could have been the massive amount of rain we've had."
Mr Waterman added: "Some people will be very happy about this, but I personally think it was quite a good use of space."
John Memery, a member of the local action group which campaigned against the store, said: "I think it's a bit of a disaster and it's put the whole project in jeopardy. Local people didn't want the store but they had got resigned to it.
"At best, it will considerably increase the cost of the project, and at worst, it will have to be abandoned."
Meanwhile, in Yorkshire, one person died and five others suffered minor injuries when a train hit a car on a level crossing.
British Transport police said the accident happened on a crossing between Thorne and Goole in East Yorkshire at about 6.25pm.
The dead man was in the car and the injured people were on the train, a police spokesman said.