Farmland, woods and beauty spots will fall foul of rail link: Stephen Ward examines the Kent Channel Tunnel Route

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The Independent Online
LEAKED plans of the proposed route for the Channel tunnel rail link show how the Government has chosen to save money by rejecting widespread tunnelling in Kent which would have avoided environmental objections.

The Independent has obtained full details of the Kent section of the line, which show that after crossing the Thames it emerges north of Swanscombe cement works and through the Kent Kraft industrial estate, displacing factories and warehouses.

Passing under the North Kent railway line near Northfleet station, it goes into the Ebbsfleet valley, where it is claimed it will be out of sight of nearby towns and villages, and avoiding the ancient monuments of a Roman town near Springhead. A junction would be built near Northfleet to link trains from the North Kent line.

As it approaches Pepper Hill, it would go either under or round a housing estate and the A2. It would link near there with a line to Waterloo.

The route then goes through farmland and a cutting, under footbridges built to maintain rights of way.

It crosses Ashenbank Wood in a cutting, and crosses the northen edges of Cobham Park golf course, including the club house and car park. It then curves north-east to avoid Colewood reservoir, before cutting through Clay Ponds and Temple Woods, a site of special scientific interest, the ancient woodland of Merrals Shaw.

It goes beneath the A228, crosses the Medway on a bridge close to the M2 bridge, and climbs the Nashenden valley next to the motorway, across the North Downs Way.

It then cuts through Syle and Monk Woods, mainly in cutting, and into a tunnel under Blue Bell Hill, then crossing the North Downs Way and Pilgrims Way in a deep cutting. It then passes just 300 metres from the Bluebells Estate, which BR had bought when it was first blighted, then begun to sell again when it had appeared to be reprieved.

It then passes within 500 metres of the remains of Boxley Abbey, and through Donkey Shaw ancient woodland, before tunnelling 300 metres under Park Wood, and 400 metres south of Boxley. Tunnel entrances which merge with the landscape are promised.

The route then crosses the north end of the ancient Par Wood in a steep-sided cutting, under the A24 and through Horish Wood and round Detling conservation area.

Between Detling and Charing Heath it stays close to the M20 through an area of outstanding natural beauty, crossing Honeyhills Wood and the site of Thurnham Roman villa, then past Ash Shaw. South of Harrietsham it stays between the A20 and M20, and leaving the M20 to run north of Sandway, giving a straighter route suitable for freight.

It then takes a small slice of Chilston Park, but avoids the historic ice pond. Listed and other farm buildings would be demolished south of Charing Heath, before the route passes between Ashford and Kennington along the northern side of the M20, saving pounds 85m by not tunneling under Ashford.

The line would then bypass Tutt Hill, avoiding properties at Grove Wood, and on to Sandyhurst in a cutting. Crossing the Stour river it goes close to a residential area then into a 900-metre tunnel near Willesborough Lees. It then runs in a deep cutting past Sevington, and in a cut-and-cover tunnel through Mersham.

Stables and cottages will have to be demolished near Sellindge, and the nearbly listed Talbot House could be dismantled and rebuilt elsewhere, and the Mucky Duck pub demolished, it is suggested. A freight yard may be sited near Westhanger station.

The route then tunnels under Ashford Road to preserve the entrance to Sandling Park, then through Oak Bank Woods before following the existing London-Dover line, which will be widened, to the Eurotunnel terminal at Cheriton.