One of Europe’s largest wetland wild life projects is emerging in Essex thanks to Crossrail.
Wallasea Island, on the River Crouch, near the Thames Estuary, will be transformed from levee- protected farmland into thriving wetland using earth from the tunnels being bored under London. The new wetlands will be twice the size of the City of London and will teem with birds and marine life.
Crossrail plans to deliver 4.5 million tonnes of clean earth from the tunnels to help build the nature reserve at Wallasea. The earth will be used to create higher and lower ground to restore the wetland landscape of mudflats, saltmarsh and lagoons last seen 400 years ago.
The loss of coastal habitat over the past four centuries has been dramatic. Without projects like Wallasea Island, rising sea levels are threatening to see another 1,000 hectares lost in the next decade. Wallasea Island will provide 670 hectares of secure habitat for wildlife to thrive well into the future.
The RSPB, a partner in the project, predicts a significant increase in the number of birds once the scheme has been completed. Environment Secretary Owen Paterson helped launch the project. ‘The excellent work that Crossrail and the RSPB are doing to create the Jubilee Marshes at Wallasea shows how major infrastructure schemes can help to generate economic growth as well as helping to improve local wildlife. This could be the gold standard against which all future projects are measured,’ Mr Patterson said.
Crossrail has built a new jetty on Wallasea Island. An estimated 2,000 ship loads of earth will be transported from Crossrail’s western tunnels. The spoil will move via freight train from west London to Northfleet in Kent where it will be loaded on to ships.
Excavated material will also be loaded onto ships directly from the eastern tunneling site at Limmo near Canning Town station in east London, with further material shipped from a storage site on the River Thames at Barking.