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Shugborough Tunnel
Shugborough Hall, Cannock Chase, Staffordshire, UK
Shugborough Tunnel
associated engineer
Robert Stephenson
George Bidder
Thomas Longridge Gooch
date  1846 - June 1847
era  Victorian  |  category  Tunnel  |  reference  SJ980216
ICE reference number  HEW 1126
photo  PHEW
Shugborough Tunnel, about halfway between Stafford and Rugeley in Staffordshire, is the largest engineering work on the Trent Valley Railway line. It runs beneath the Shugborough estate, and it remains in use on the west coast main line. The picture above shows the Grade II listed structure’s west portal.
The Trent Valley Railway runs between Rugby and the Grand Junction Railway at Stafford in the West Midlands. On 13th November 1845, Sir Robert Peel (1788-1850) cut the first sod for the line at Tamworth. It was constructed to avoid the urban connurbation of Coventry, Birmingham and Wolverhampton, and to reduce the travelling distance from London Euston to Crewe.
In April 1846, the Trent Valley Railway Company became part of the London & North Western Railway. The double track Trent Valley line was designed by engineers Robert Stephenson (1803-59), George Parker Bidder (1806-78) and Thomas Longridge Gooch (1808-82). It was constructed by a group of contractors led by Thomas Brassey (1805-70).
However, Thomas William Anson (1795-1854, 1st Earl of Lichfield) of Shugborough Hall insisted that the railway should be put into a tunnel or diverted away from his land. The tunnel option was chosen and Shugborough Tunnel is the line’s largest engineering work. It carries the railway under the north flank of the Satnall Hills, beneath the estate.
The east-west tunnel is 710.5m long and built on a curve of 1.5km radius, convex to the north. It was constructed to an oval profile — a typical Victorian technique for distributing the loading/stresses equally around the circumference. Nine shafts to the surface provided construction access and ventilation for the finished tunnel.
The interior of the tunnel is brick lined. Its portals are of ashlar masonry, with semicircular arches springing from vertical side walls, topped by crenelated parapets. The west portal is topped by a pair of battlemented towers, with flanking walls leading to further ornate towers. Both portals, and a bridge on the estate, were designed by architect John Livock (1814-83).
The 80km Trent Valley line was completed on 26th June 1847, though the route was not opened to all services until 1st December 1847.
In March 1953, the Shugborough Tunnel entrances were heritage listed Grade II. The structure lies within a site of special scientific interest and is located north west of Colwich Junction (SK009212).
In the 1960s, the Trent Valley line was electrified on an overhead 25kV alternating current system. Apart from the double tracks through the tunnel, it now has four tracks throughout. In September 2008, extensive re-signalling works were completed along the line.
in 2011, a temporary speed restriction was imposed through the tunnel. Years of ongoing track maintenance had raised the rails and resulted in restricted headroom. However, reducing speeds and increasing journey times on the critical west coast route soon required a permanent solution.
In 2012, a £2.5 million programme of track renewal and lowering was planned, following desktop and on site structural investigations. Enabling works were carried out from June to December 2012, and the main project was implemented during a rail possession between 24th December 2012 and 2nd January 2013.
Excavation of around 1m was necessary to lower the tracks sufficiently to comply with the standard clearance required for modern containerised rail freight. Constant monitoring and phased excavation ensured structural movement was minimised. Other works included rerouting service cables and renewing 1km of drains and the associated outfall.
Some 7,200 tonnes of new ballast, 2,300 new sleepers and around 4km of new rails were installed, by working on each track in turn. A total of 1.65km of old track (777m on one line and 869m on the other) were removed in panels and re-used elsewhere on lower category railway lines and sidings. The speed restriction was lifted and trains were again permitted to run through the tunnel at up to 160kph (100mph).
The tunnel’s confined space requires forced ventilation and the present system uses six modular fans of 1.22m diameter to provide 17 air changes every hour, at air current speeds of up to 2.7m per second.
Architect: John Livock
Structural engineer (2012-3): Network Rail with Donaldson Associates
Contractor: Thomas Brassey in partnership with John Stephenson and William Mackenzie
Contractor (2012-3): Amey Colas
Specialist contractor (2012-3): Bourne Rail, OLE
Ventialtion (2012-3): Factair
Research: ECPK
reference sources   CEH W&W

Shugborough Tunnel