Where is the Chilterns’ HS2 spoil going?

People have been worried about what will happen with the spoil from digging the HS2 tunnels and cuttings almost from the moment HS2 was announced. The quantity of soil that can be expected to be removed, how it will be removed and what will happen to it has been removed have been a matter for concern.

Briefly, it seemed that one of the problems had been resolved – to HS2 Ltd’s satisfatction.

In January, David Liddington, MP for Aylesbury wrote to Alison Munro, CEO for HS2 Ltd, asking her about it:

“I was concerned to learn that the impression amongst my constituents and local representatives is that HS2 Ltd is unwilling to discuss the issue of a large work camp and spoil dump as they feel it is issue for the contractor at the time of construction.”

He got a reply from Alison Munro at the end of February:

“Our proposals do not envisage “a large spoil dump” in the Chilterns. … The vast majority of spoil in the Chilterns (relating to the construction of the 13.5km long twin bore Chiltern tunnel) will be dealt with adjacent to the M25 and thus outside of the AONB designation.”

So that’s all right then – dump the problem somewhere else.

However, when the Bucks Examiner got in touch with HS2 Ltd it turned out Alison Munro – in spite of being HS2 Ltd’s CEO – had it wrong. They weren’t going to dump it by the M25, but use Britain’s busiest motorway to transport it elsewhere.

The Examiner have calculated the number of lorries that may be needed to deal with the possible quantities of spoil:

“Experts say around 12 million cubic metres of spoil will need to be removed to build the London to Birmingham link featuring a 13.5km tunnel under some of the Chilterns.

“If these figures are correct, it will mean a lorry movement every 26 seconds of the working day, Monday to Friday, along the whole line for five years – the equivalent of 850,000 full trucks taking the spoil away during the construction phase which is due to start in 2017.”

Even if some of these lorries do not go near the M25, it’s still a massive extra number of trucks on the roads, just from building part of the HS2 route.

(The problem of disposal of spoil from Crossrail has also been an issue in Brent recently.

The Kilburn Times reported last week that Kensal Triangle residents were never consulted about the lorries which will be used to dispose of spoil from Crossrail through the area.

A spokesman for Brent council said

“The approximate maximum number of predicted journeys is 110 per day during peak times which is likely to last three months, but this will decrease to approx. 40-50 a day outside these times. “)

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6 comments to “Where is the Chilterns’ HS2 spoil going?”
  1. It is clear from the statement that spoil will be “dealt with adjacent to the M25” that this isn’t an indication that it will be dumped at or along the M25.

  2. Here is a recent response I received from HS2 Enquiries on this subject:

    3. The amount of tunnel spoil to be removed was around 1 million tonnes. It will have increased with the longer tunnel design. Again, at the Road Show, I was told it would removed by truck along the M25 but not enough landfill was available in SE England and so it would be exported. Is this still the case?

    Regarding spoil we have considered the additional spoil in our overall assessment of the additional tunnelling. We have not yet evaluated where the spoil will be disposed of but we would intend to use rail, water and road forms of transport.

    • Is it not self evident that a tunnel through an upland area rather than a deep cutting produces only a fraction of the spoil that needs to be disposed of ?

      Just consider the relative cross sections of a twin track say 25m. below the original surface.

      The tunnel would leave the ground above virtually as it was, while the cutting would leave a deep slot with sloping sides or tall retaining walls and would require vastly greater amounts of spoil to be taken away.

      A green tunnel, in effect a cutting with a roof, would use some of the excavated material as backfill, and the original surface level could be restored but clearly during the construction phase,would destroy any thing on the surface.
      {rather like a long distance cross country gas or water pipelines but on a greater scale)

      • The point is that removal of the spoil adds to the embedded carbon of the entire project, further undermining the environmental case. The further it has to travel, the greater the carbon footprint.

      • Perhaps it should be suggested, again, that the entire section of HS2 that does not serve any stations ought to be buried in tunnels. It maybe more expensive, but then again the money could be better spent on a whole host of other things anyway and what is another billion or so down the drain when a different government will be able to say “Look at how the last lot wasted your money”. But “out of sight out of mind” and it may even be possible to straighten and level the route to shave another 30 secomds off some businessman’s vital journey.

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