‘We came so close to a ma­jor tragedy’

Ten years ago, peo­ple liv­ing in Ger­rards Cross were left shell­shocked af­ter a tun­nel con­structed to al­low a new Tesco su­per­mar­ket to be built over a rail­way line col­lapsed, nar­rowly miss­ing a train full of peo­ple. JACK ABELL looks back to the day of the d

Buckinghamshire Advertiser - - FOCUS -

THURS­DAY, June 30, 2005 started off like any other day for the peo­ple in Ger­rards Cross. A con­tro­ver­sial new Tesco store was be­ing built in the cen­tre of the vil­lage, over the rail­way line link­ing it with Lon­don Maryle­bone, and de­spite years of op­po­si­tion to the plans from peo­ple liv­ing nearby and the dis­trict coun­cil, work on the su­per­mar­ket was well un­der way.

Due to a lack of space in the area for a new store, Tesco had pro­posed an in­no­va­tive con­cept in­volv­ing build­ing over the rail­way line, us­ing large con­crete sec­tions to cre­ate a tun­nel through which trains could travel. On the top of the new tun­nel, tonnes of soil would be used to pro­vide the land which the store would be built on.

Con­struc­tion had reached a stage at which the tun­nel seg­ments had been fin­ished, foun­da­tions were in place, and the steel frame of the new Tesco had been erected.

“There had been a lot of ob­jec­tion,” says parish coun­cil­lor Mike Law­son, who still lives in the vil­lage, “but it had reached a stage where the ma­jor­ity of peo­ple had ac­cepted it.

“The work was go­ing ahead and the pro­ject was start­ing to take shape. No one had any rea­son to think that some­thing would hap­pen to change that.”

Shortly af­ter 7.30pm that evening, how­ever, some­thing did hap­pen – 30 me­tres of the 320 me­tre long tun­nel col­lapsed onto the rail­way line be­low, bring­ing with it 25,000 tonnes of earth and rub­ble.

A wit­ness told the BBC at the time that he heard, “what sounded like a clap of thun­der - I thought it was an earth­quake. I saw the tun­nel fall­ing on to the rail track”.

The mar­gins by which tragedy was averted were in­cred­i­bly nar­row. A train had just be­gun to move away from Ger­rards Cross sta­tion on its way to the cap­i­tal when its driver saw the col­lapse, stopped his train us­ing his emer­gency break and in­formed ra­dio sig­nallers who passed the mes­sage on to other trains.

Com­muters on their way from Lon­don on a west bound train head­ing to High Wy­combe were evac­u­ated, hav­ing just passed through Den­ham Golf Club, the last stop be­fore Ger­rards Cross.

“The fact that no one was hurt was re­mark­able,” says Ros Hurn, who had been cam­paign­ing against the store be­ing built. “We are talk­ing about a cou­ple of min­utes be­tween it hap­pen­ing and a ma­jor tragedy.

“The train driver at Ger­rards Cross was in­cred­i­bly quick think­ing and saved the lives of a lot of peo­ple.”

Heavy rain­fall in the days lead­ing up to the col­lapse may have con­trib­uted to the ac­ci­dent.

“There was a feel­ing of great shock,” says Mr Law­son. “Peo­ple were as­tounded by what had hap­pened, and by how close we’d come to a ma­jor tragedy in our vil­lage. The mess it

WORK IN PROGRESS: Tesco in Ger­rards Cross dur­ing the build­ing process

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.