Rail tunnel firm ignored subsidence warnings, say residents

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The Independent Online

Officials at the Channel Tunnel Rail Link (CTRL) were accused of ignoring residents' warnings on disused water wells after a landslip swallowed up the gardens of a number of homes in an east London street.

Officials at the Channel Tunnel Rail Link (CTRL) were accused of ignoring residents' warnings on disused water wells after a landslip swallowed up the gardens of a number of homes in an east London street.

Drilling on the £5.2bn project was halted as engineers investigated the appearance of a huge crater along the tunnel route. The collapse of old water wells is believed to be the most likely cause of the landslip, which forced 50 people to evacuate their houses in Stratford.

It happened more than a day after a machine boring a tunnel eight metres wide passed below the houses on Lavender Street. The tunnel re-mained intact but a 10m-deep crater appeared across several gardens. Residents had been promised that at worst land would settle by a maximum of 20mm, less than a inch.

The tunnelling work, 20m below the surface, to link Ashford in Kent with the new St Pancras terminus, has stopped pending the outcome of an inquiry. "It's not going anywhere until we are satisfied that we know what has happened," a CTRL spokesman said.

Families met officials from the CTRL, Newham council and the police to discuss returning to their homes after their enforced departure on Saturday night. Some 35 residents stayed in hotels overnight while others went to stay with family and friends. Hundreds of tonnes of concrete were poured into the 10m-wide hole.

All but two of the households were allowed back yesterday.

Officials said they knew of the wells but residents accused the company of ignoring their warnings. Mandalina Stepniewska, a Neighbourhood Watch co-ordinator, said: "We have had meetings with Channel Tunnel and our last meeting was in November. It was brought up then and we have been telling them that this would happen."

Julien Bridgeman, 89, told how he heard noises for more than a day before the collapse.

"All night I was feeling the house shaking," he said. "At one point I tried to open the door but I couldn't so I had to take the lock off. Then I heard a crash and someone came round and told me to look at my garden. I went upstairs I saw a big crater and the neighbour's shed had disappeared."

The CTRL spokesman said that all ground movements in the area were monitored but "nothing happened to give us any concern whatsoever".

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