The Box railway tunnel mystery solved

Appearing in the magazine Atlas Obscura in April last year is an article, which I’ve only recently read, about  Railway Engineers in England Just Solved a Sunny, 175-Year-Old Mystery.

The mystery involves Isambard Kingdom Brunel the designer of the Box Tunnel, a near two mile long railway tunnel between Bath and Chippenham.

The tunnel was dug for the Great Western Railway in the 1840s. It was rumoured that the tunnel was carved in such a way that when the sun rose on Brunel’s birthday – April 9th – the tunnel would be flooded with light.

In 2017, during a shutdown of the tunnel for upgrade works, engineers were able to test the theory. Lo and behold they found the truth in the rumour that light did flood the tunnel on Brunel’s birthday. The Guardian also reported the engineers findings.

Good news on the Maultway sarsen stone

Yesterday this little blog received over 1100 views. There were just two articles. The article on the sarsen stone, I believe, received almost all of those views, although I don’t have the exact records to show this.

It’s pleasing that so many residents are keen to know of the future of the sarsen stone in the roadside verge on the Maultway near the junction with Red Road.

I’ve learned of some good news on the future of the sarsen stone. A committee member of Surrey Heath Tree Wardens, who is in contact with the environmental manager at Skanska – the infrastructure developers of the Mindenhurst at Deepcut – learned about plans for the sarsen stone.

The good news is that Skanska is keen to find a suitable home for the sarsen stone. Wanting to protect the stone until the road construction is complete they intend to lift the stone and hold it in a safe place. One of their thoughts is to relocate the stone to be the centrepiece of the new island at the junction of the Maultway, Red Road, and Upper Chobham Road, or it could also be returned to the roadside verge after completion of the roadworks.

The good news is that the stone will be returned to close to where it is currently. I don’t have the information as to whether the stone has been previously moved. I doubt it, as it’s of a considerable size, with no knowledge as to how deeply it is buried. If it’s never been moved, then it’s been in that location for 10,000 years or more.

Update on road repairs and roadwork schemes in Surrey Heath

Helpfully, Surrey County Councillor Bill Chapman for Camberley East ward has provided an update on the road repairs and the roadwork schemes ongoing in Surrey Heath. His update covers the following,

  1.          Work at the junction of Red Road and The Maultway
  2.          Improvements to junction of Red Road and Macdonald Road, Lightwater
  3.          Repairs to A30 outside Royal Military Academy Sandhurst
  4.          Repairs to Church Hill / Upper Park Road, Camberley
  5.          Progress on the Meadows Roundabout
  6. Work on the A30 between Waitrose, Bagshot and the Jolly Farmer Roundabout

Work on A30 between Waitrose, Bagshot and Jolly Farmer Roundabout

This work is being carried out to install a cycle-path along the A30. There are a number of points which need to be made about the scheme:

The County Council’s dire financial situation has been widely noted and there is therefore very little money available directly from the Council to pay for roadworks.  A key point is that the cycle lane work is not being paid for out of Council Tax Payers money

As a condition of the development of the Wellington Park Estate money was set aside to fund improvements to local transport infrastructure to offset the additional traffic arising from the new homes that were built.  It is the remainder of this Developer’s money which is being used to install the cycle path.

But why a cycle path I hear you ask?  After all, it is true that there isn’t a great deal of cycling along the A30 at the moment.

However, it’s a bit of a chicken and egg situation in that the current lack of safe cycle paths acts as a deterrent to cycling.  Furthermore, it is highly probable that cycling will need to be encouraged more as we face up to the threats from climate change or depleted fossil fuel resources, whichever narrative you chose to believe.

For this reason Surrey Heath has developed a Cycling Plan which specifies a target for a network of cycle paths that we would wish to complete eventually.  The new cycle path will be one piece in the overall network, joining on as it does to the shared cycle and pedestrian pathway from the Jolly Farmer down to Camberley Town Centre and beyond  The intention is to fill in the most critical sections of the network as funding becomes available.

When agreeing to the work going ahead a key consideration for Local Councillors was that traffic should be disrupted as little as possible during the work. This has been made possible by the 3-lane width of the A30 along the stretch in question.

Work at the Junction of Red Road (B311) and The Maultway (B3015)

Modifications to the junction is one of the schemes to alleviate the traffic impact of the 1,200 new homes which will be built on the former Princes Royal Barracks site in Deepcut.

Work on the roads is usually funded and, more importantly, managed by Surrey County Council.  Surrey County Council provides good information to the public through the Council’s web-site.

However, the work at this junction is being funded and managed by the Developer and suitable information does not seem to be available at the moment.

I am trying to find some simple key information on when roads will have restricted capacity or be closed and for how long.  When I find out I will pass the information on.

Improvements to Junction of Red Road (B311) and Macdonald Road, Lightwater

This junction is recognised locally as being quite dangerous, particularly for vehicles turning right from Macdonald Road onto the Red Road.

Over the years there have been a number of changes made on the Red Road to improve safety at the junction, including reductions in the speed limit and provision of better warning signage.  There is no doubt that there has been a massive reduction in the number of serious accidents all along the Red Road and at the Macdonald Road junction in particular.

However, the Council has recognised that safety remains an issue at the junction and consequently has provided money from ring-fenced road safety funding to address the issue.   Anti-skid surfacing has recently been installed and some additional warning bollards have been provided.

Local Councillors will be continuing to monitor the situation and we will press for further improvements if necessary.  One problem that we will face if we need to press for further improvement arises from the way that the Police record accidents.

Only accidents in which someone is injured are recorded.  These data are then passed to the Council for use in deciding between road schemes competing for the very restricted funding that is available.  The weakness here is that it can be just a hairsbreadth of misjudgment between an accident in which no one is hurt and something really serious resulting in personal injury.

Therefore we intend to monitor as many as possible of the accidents that take place and, where it is safe to do so, to photograph the damage to vehicles.

Repairs to A30 London Road Outside RMAS, Camberley

The road outside the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst on the A30 has been in a very poor state for some time with the County Council unable to carry repairs because of well known financial difficulties.

Money has now been found and the road is scheduled to be repaired between 18th and 26th of October.  Work will take place over 8 nights form 8 pm to 6 am and the A30 between Grand Avenue and Sparvel Way will be closed to traffic. Timescales could slip depending on weather conditions.

  • Repairs to Church Hill / Upper Park Road, Camberley

The road at this junction is very badly worn.  It is on the list of work to be completed but has not yet been scheduled precisely.

Progress on the Meadows Roundabout Improvements

Work is on schedule to be completed by April 2019.

The work to install a cycle path on the A331 a year ago was a complete debacle, causing severe traffic jams in the area.  As a consequence Local Councillors insisted that money be found so that the Meadows Roundabout improvements could be carried out overnight.

More information can be found on the web-site, including how to subscribe for regular email updates.

Latest photos of Waterloo Station upgrade

Yesterday’s blog post warned about me posting photos from my visit to London.

To record the progress of the upgrade to Waterloo Station I take a photo or two from the same vantage point on the upper concourse at Waterloo Station.

This is from the Network Rail website on the Waterloo and South West upgrade says,

Work on the Waterloo and South West upgrade started in April 2016 when we began re-developing the former Waterloo International Terminal for domestic services. The project is expected to be complete by December 2018 and will provide the biggest package of improvements to London Waterloo since the 1930s.

That date of December 2018 to complete, to my eyes, looks ambitious. Click on images to expand.

Recent photos of Waterloo Station upgrade

Here’s the latest state of the Waterloo Station upgrade, with photos taken yesterday on a visit to London. Since December 2015 from almost the same vantage point on the upper concourse at Waterloo Station I’ve taken photos of the progress of the redevelopment of the former International Station into platforms 20 – 24 for domestic rail services.

Below the photos [click to enlarge] you can read, and link to, my previous article about the station upgrade,

Network Rail’s Wessex Improvement Plan states that the work on bringing the former International Station back into use will end in December 2018. From what I’ve seen in visits over the last few months this looks an impossibly tight target. The Rail Engineer website describes the extent of the work involved – mostly not obvious from my photo vantage point.

I’ve put my photos into a slide show, beginning in February 2017, and ending in August 2018.

The plans include a new concourse with three floors of retail and restaurants. The artists impression of the new concourse shows stairs down to the new concourse. I hope there’s an escalator, and lift planned in the work, because I can’t see it in the artists impression below, or in my photos.

Attending the Esso jet fuel pipeline consultation

Last Friday I visited the consultation on the preferred route of Southampton to London Pipeline Project for residents in Deepcut and Lightwater at Heatherside Community Centre.

I’m supportive of the project, and recognise that there are necessary changes to the pipeline route from the existing due to changes through, housing, road development, and what could be called urban progress.

I was keen to highlight my concerns about the projected route near Red Road and Folly Bog in Lightwater. I learned that the work in 2016 on the pipeline in Folly Bog was caused by issue relating to the pipeline being in water. The repair work was to reline the exterior of the pipeline in a protective coating, not to replace it, as I irrationally thought.

In my view, and I’ll be writing my suggestions to the consultation, makes too much of an effort to avoid Folly Bog, and the projected preferred route is too close to Rec Road, and the housing around The Folly. My suggestion is to stick to the track alongside the ranges, positioning the pipeline further away from Red Road. There’s plenty of room for this diversion, while also maintaining the high ground that the engineers prefer.

Here’s the map, downloaded from the SLPProject website. Notice that the existing pipeline is in dark blue, and the preferred route is the broken line, again in blue.

Don’t forget: Esso jet fuel pipeline consultation day today

Here’s a reminder that today is the consultation on the preferred route of Southampton to London Pipeline Project for residents in Deepcut and Lightwater [click on image to expand]. The local consultation events are at,

  • 28 September, 14:00-20:00: Deepcut and Lightwater, Heatherside Community Centre, Martindale Avenue, GU15 1BB
  • 29 September, 11:00-17:00: Chobham, Chobham Parish Pavilion, Recreation Ground, Station Road, Chobham, GU24 8AJ
  • 3 October, 14:00-20:00: Frimley, Lakeside Continental Hotel, Wharf Road, GU16 6JR
  • 10 October, 14:00-20:00: Farnborough, Farnborough Exhibition and Conference Centre, ETPS Road, GU14 6FD

All the consultation events, route options, and feedback forms, are contained in the Replacement Pipeline Route Consultation Brochure. [see below – to expand, click on upward facing arrow at bottom right]. There are other public documents to be found HERE, including detailed maps containing a wealth of information.