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Normandy Residents to Meet Network Rail About Overnight Pile-Driving

Published on: 7 Jan, 2021
Updated on: 12 Jan, 2021

The re-opened line looking west towards Ash. Photo Network Rail

By Martin Giles

Train services restarted yesterday (January 6) on the Guildford-Reading line, after repairs to the 40-metre landslip in Normandy over Christmas.

Those living near say noise from overnight pile-driving kept them awake so an online meeting between Network Rail and residents starts at 6pm this evening.

Network Rail said heavy rain during Storm Bella undermined the embankment, leaving the track unsupported. The line had to be closed for safety reasons near Westwood Lane bridge, and 17-metre long steel sheets were driven into the ground to prevent the earth from moving any further.

The line looking east towards Guildford. A pile driver can be seen to the left of the track. Photo Network Rail

Derek Butcher, Network Rail Southern region’s route asset manager for geotechnics, said: “London Clay is not a material we would build railways out of these days, but our Victorian ancestors weren’t so advanced with their knowledge of soil mechanics.

“At this location the embankment had absorbed so much water over December, it moved out from underneath the track, leaving the railway unsupported.”

But a local resident, who did not wish to be named, whose property is adjacent to the railway line blamed the felling of trees and bushes on the embankment earlier in 2020 as the possible underlying cause of the landslip. “The trees and undergrowth had acted as a noise filter,” he said.

The work and noise disturbance had been going on since July progressing to pile-driving through the night which made “everything in the house shake boom, boom. It was like an earthquake”.

Mark Killick, route director, Network Rail Wessex said: “Our engineers have worked tirelessly to carry out these essential repairs, and I want to thank everyone involved for their efforts and to passengers and local residents for their patience and understanding.

“The emergency work is now complete and the line has reopened for critical workers, but our team will stay on-site to deliver the remaining activity and ensure the embankment is secure for years.”

Cllr Keith Witham

County Councillor Keith Witham (Con, Worplesdon) commented in a letter to residents: “I have been in touch with Network Rail several times over the past few days to raise concerns expressed by residents, the Parish Council, and the Wanborough Station Users Group.

“So this end to noisy night-time working, albeit for essential safety works, is most welcome.”

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