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Barking Riverside tunnel would be 'like a rollercoaster'

Barking Riverside development

Steep gradients involved in a tunnelled extension taking the £263M Barking Riverside rail scheme the Thames would make the journey “quite a ride” – but rail bosses have not ruled it out.

During a Greater London Assembly transport committee meeting this week, assembly member Tom Copely asked whether the 4km Barking Riverside extension could see more growth in future.

He asked Network Rail strategy and planning director (south) Rupert Walker: “Is there a potential for the Barking Riverside extension to be extended further under the river…to Thamesmead? Is the extension being built with that in mind as a potential future extension?”

Walker pointed out that building an extension so close to the river was impractical. The east London station would sit next to the Thames and so a tunnel would have to drop sharply so that it could pass under the river bed.

“I think it’s possible, however in this particular instance it would be quite a ride,” he said.

“The gradients would be quite spectacular. So yes it’s possible, yes it would be neat strategically, but it would be hard in practical terms, and by ‘hard in practical terms’ that also often means quite expensive.”

A source close to the project confirmed that Transport for London (TfL) might have to think about adding a spur to the Barking Riverside extension in future, which would present its own engineering challenges.

Although they declined to give an exact gradient, they said such a steep decline would be “a bit like a rollercoaster” and could be compared to going down a two-storey building.

Balfour Beatty and Volker Fitzpatrick are still in the running for construction of the Barking Riverside extension project, which will involve 1.6km of new track. A contract award is expected later this summer.

Complications affecting traction power and topographical surveys led to a design delay, helping to push the procurement process back by seven months. However TfL still expects the extension to open in 2021 as planned.

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  • DLR station Island Gardens was initially built as a terminating station at high level. When the DLR was extended under the river, the line was put into tunnel south of Mudchute and Island Gardens station was completely rebuilt as a sub-surface station. The same could be done at Barking, if there is space between the buildings that will surround it by then.

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