Thursday, February 12, 2004

Channel Tunnel Rail Link

Since the Camden Town Tube crash last November I have largely avoided using the Northern Line to get to work, mainly because of the length of time it often takes to change at Camden. Instead, I currently get the train from New Southgate, which is a short bus ride away. On a good day, going this way can get me into work quicker than the Northern Line ever could so I'm happy enough. It's also rarely as much of a squeeze as the tube.

The trains from New Southgate either go to Kings Cross or Moorgate and since it doesn't make any difference to me which I go to I just take the first train that turns up. This means that two or three times a week I get to see how the work on the St Pancras Eurostar terminus is coming along.

The station itself is being massively extended, presumably with longer or more platforms, or both, and there are large numbers of building contractors all around the place. The rail link turns east almost immediately after the station and goes over the lines coming out of Kings Cross before disappearing into a tunnel and it's here that I've seen most of the interesting stuff.

Firstly, was the construction of a tunnel-like structure off to one side of the Kings Cross line. It was made from a series of oval pieces of steel that were fitted together to form a long, flattened cylinder. It didn't seem to make sense to start with because, where it was situated, it was obvious that any trains going through it would run smack into a road bridge at one end of it. It was only when it was finished did it become clear, when they move the whole thing to sit over the tracks below. Why they didn't just build a normal bridge, I don't know, but that's what it is. The tracks emerging from the end of it now dive down to go under the road bridge a couple of hundred yards away.

Recently, things on the other side of the line has got more interesting with the emergence of the tunnels into which the trains will go when beginning their underground haul across North and East London. For a few seconds there is a glimpse of one of the huge tunneling machines that has been used for the job. It's an impressive piece of hardware, even when just sitting there inactive. I definitely wouldn't want to be caught in front of it when it got going.

Enough has been done now to get a rough idea of what the end result will be once the project (including the complete redevelopment of the Underground station) is completed and I think it's looking good.

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