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29th November 2014 | Today's High Tides | 04:51 - 4.63m | 17:36 - 4.75m | Full Tide Tables

How will the Material be Imported?

The material will be brought round to Wallasea by ships loading at a number of R. Thames wharves: Some material will be delivered directly by conveyor from the Eastern tunnel portal in docklands to Instone Wharf, at the mouth of Bow Creek, directly across the river from the Millenium Dome. (Actually just about where your television screen rotates when the Eastenders theme begins!). Some will be brought by rail from the western end of the tunnel near Paddington to the former cement factory at Northfleet upriver of Gravesend in Kent and some will be transported to a berth near the mouth of Barking Creek. From these berths the material will be transported by ship to a new unloading facility in R. Crouch, close to Ringwood Point on Wallasea Island – just upriver of Fairway 1 Green buoy.

The unloading facility has been constructed in Poland and has been towed across the North Sea. At present (Oct. 2011) it is waiting in Tilbury Docks to be towed round to the R. Crouch in early April 2012. It will consist of two large floating pontoons installed ‘back to back’, located by piles and extended at each end by ship mooring piles and service boat berthing. The overall length of the facility will be 187m, capable of berthing two 90m long ships simultaneously. Two tracked ship unloaders will be installed on the pontoon and conveyors will lift the material up to a fixed hopper from whence it will be carried by conveyor to a stock handling yard landward of the seawall. 

Preparatory works are presently (Oct. 2011) being carried out on Wallasea Island. Driving of piles to locate the unloading pontoon and carry the shore conveyor will take place in March 2012 and the unloading pontoons will be installed from early April 2012. It is intended that the unloading facility will be complete by end May 2012, ready for a month of testing during June 2012 involving handling 65,000 tonnes of material. Digging of the first tunnels (the western tunnels near Paddington) is due to commence from March 2012 with the material being taken by rail to Northfleet for shipping to Wallasea. Restrictions on engineering operations in Central London occasioned by the 2012 Olympics will mean that tunnelling will proceed fairly slowly until September 2012, when production will go into full swing and up to 10,000 tonnes of material per day, probably 5 ships per day, will be arriving at Wallasea. This intensive tunnelling phase will last for approximately 12 months - until about the end of 2013 when the volume of material, and the number of ships will probably drop to about 5,000 tonnes per day.

Tunneling operations are expected to be over by late 2015 and Crossrail are aiming for 'first train' in early 2018 - however tunneling, especially very deep tuneling under big cities, is notoriously a very unpredictable civil engineering operation, so it is too soon to book your holiday flight from Heathrow at Easter 2018 and rely on Crossrail to catch it! 

It is critical that the tunnelling machines are not held up by shortage of shipping capacity. The fact that there is very little stockpile capacity at Instone Wharf and that this wharf is tidally restricted will make planning the shipping operation a critical business. Fortunately there is ample depth at the Wallasea facility for ships to lie afloat at LW, and provided the ships used are of moderate draught there will be comparatively little depth restriction in the passage from the Port Boundary near the Whitaker to the unloading berth.

The unloading facility will be constructed on river bed belonging to the Harbour Authority and it will have to be completely removed at the end of the lease in 2019.

In all, to complete the Wallasea Wild Coast Project will require approximately 10 million tonnes of material. Of this only about 4 million tonnes will be coming from the Crossrail Project. Once Crossrail have completed their work RSPB will have to find materials from other sources. The London Tideway Tunnel (a massive tunnel under the Thames connecting sewage overflow outfalls right through London) is a potential source. It will be much easier to source this material once the unloading facility is in place to handle it. Other possible sources include the groundworks for the new Sizewell 'C' atomic power station.