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Ugh! The alarm went off at 05:00 this morning in order for me to have a shower, an injection of caffeine and a sugar rush- thanks to Dawn’s freshly made Bakewell tart. Just to add to the excitement the cat decided to be sick and feel sorry for himself so it wasn’t the most relaxed start to the day as we had to clean Jet up before we left. Dee was up too in order to drive me to the station (thank you babe! X) but on the bright side we both enjoyed a beautiful Surrey morning as the mist caused by last nights torrential rain begain to boil away as the sun rose. By 06:00 the mercury had already hit 14 degrees.

I’m currently sat on the London train, a 12 car set from Alton to Waterloo which is pretty empty. In this neck of the woods a lot of people are still working from home. Oh, there were a few dozen people waiting for the train to arrive and it is early, but you’d expect far more than this on a normal working day. It’s upper and middle-class commuter zones like this in the South-East where the rail recovery is going to be the slowest. I’ll be interested to see what Waterloo looks like when I arrive in under an hour. Still, my train’s clean and well-presented. The interior of this Siemens Class 450 has been refreshed with the new SWRailway seat mocquette and there’s now power sockets throughout . Oh, and wifi – which is how I’m transmitting this blog.

Not exactly crowded, is it?


Whilst Surrey may be basking in sunshine the closer I get to London the gloomier it gets. The weather along the old London and Southwestern main line feels more like a dull and dank November day not July. Only the fact that the trees are sporting their summer regalia and gardens are full of blooms gives the game away. Hopefully, by the time I get to the HS2 construction site that I’m visiting today things will have perked up.


Hanging around Waterloo just long enough to get a few library shots (including of the new ‘green’ wooden seating -nice!) I caught a Bakerloo line tube over to Marlebone. Initially quiet, the train filled up after Charing Cross.

Aboard the venerable Bakerloo line trains, now the oldest on the Underground network.

Marylebone was equally busy with commuters coming off arrivals. Numbers here are really picking up. There’d be little room for social distancing on these trains so It’s just as well rules will be relaxed next week. The vast majority of folk are still wearing masks and I’d be surprised if that changed overnight.


Wow! What a day..

The gloomy weather cleared by the time I got to my final destination, which was the amazing HS2 construction site at South Heath, on the edge of the M25. It’s from here that two of the biggest structures on phase 1 of HS2 are being built from. Right now there are two huge tunnel boring machines (TBMs) drilling a pair of 9.1m diameter bores Northwards. These dwarf the 7.6m bores of the channel tunnel. Meanwhile, preperations are underway to begin costruction of the 3.5km long Colne Valley viaduct which will be built Southwards from the same site. Our small group wrre given a guided tour that got us up close and personal with “Cecilia” the second of the 160 metre long TBMs which was launched last week (a week earlier than planned).

I’ll be blogging at length about our visit another time. Right now I’m downloading the pictures from my camera, but here’s a taster.

Here’s what ‘Cecilia’ looks like without me stood in the way…

This isn’t the full 160 metre length of ‘Cecilia’ either. The cutting head and shield have already disappeared into the tunnel and there’s a good few metres of the tail which I simply couldn’t capture, even with a wide-angle lens! This things are big!

And there’s more…

Up close and personal with ‘Cecilia’ (named after Cecilia Payne-Gaposchkin, an astronomer), the second TBM which was launched last week. This is the view from the tail of the machine, looking through the centre towards the cutting head where you can see a tunnel lining segment waiting to be put into place.
This is the tunnel dug by the first TBM. It’s only when you get this close you realise just how big they are. The Channel tunnel main bores are 7.6m in diameter.These tunnels are 9.1m. Several hundred metres inside the tunnel are the tail lights of TBM ‘Florence’ which is now outside the M25 motorway and running ahead of schedule.
Inside the on-site factory making the steel and concrete segments that will line both of the Chilterns tunnels. The plant will produce approximately 112,300 of these 7.5 tonne segments which come in seven different shapes.

I’ve a favour to ask…
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