A former brickworks and cement open-pit mine just outside Cambridge is to be filled in with spoil from HS2 tunnels at Old Oak Common. The spoil is being created by the building site at Old Oak Common for the new hub station there, and the tunnels under the area, including the huge crossover cavern being built just to the west of the new station.

Mega-tons of spoil need to be disposed of somewhere, and while Crossrail was able to send its spoil to help create a wildlife reserve in Essex, HS2’s spoil is being used to fill in a disused quarry mine in Cambridgeshire.

Barrington Cemex landfill site (c) Google satellite view

The village of Barrington just outside Cambridge has been the site of brickworks since at least the 1840s, but the largest site was to the north of the village, where limestone was mined to be turned into cement.

The open-pit mine closed in 2008, and the old cement kiln was demolished in 2013. An unexpected find was some documents from the site’s old social club, and the discovery that it still had £2,500 in the club’s bank account.

The site is now planned to be a housing development, with 144 houses, but the mine needs to be filled in. This is where HS2 comes into the story – having a lot of spoil that’s looking for a hole to put it into.

The first train carrying 1,470 tonnes of spoil left Willesden just before 4am last Tuesday, snaking its way around North London and then via Stevenage to Foxton, where it reversed onto a freight line up to the former Cemex site.

Wagons being loaded with spoil as first freight train leaves the Logistics Hub (c) HS2

Over the lifecycle of the project up to seven freight trains per day will depart the Logistics hub at Willesden, without rail freight, they would have needed an estimated one million lorry trips on the roads in the London area alone. One train per day will also arrive at the hub bringing in construction materials, including concrete segments that will be used to construct HS2’s London tunnels.

For the train geeks – the route taken by the first freight train is here.


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  1. Andrew Moore says:

    The train would actually have to continue a few more stops beyond Royston to the village of Foxton, and then traverse the Barrington Branch line.

  2. Stuart Douglas says:

    Great idea, but could any be used around the Norfolk coast to help stop the coastal erosion and save both communities and the Norfolk Broads. I know there is no immediate rail line beyond Great Yarmouth at the coast, but sure other partners could be convinced to assist

    • Nigel Diplock says:

      Using some to tackle the Norfolk & Suffolk coast erosion is a very good idea, but there would need to be some sort of strong barrier installed to prevent this spoil also being washed away by the sea ?
      I think your idea has already been tried just to the north of Southwold, some years ago, if I remember correctly, as I visited Southwold most days on deliveries. However, I’m not sure of whether it worked or not, as I haven’t visited that area for a number of years now !

  3. Richard Joyce says:

    Peterborough brick works no more , Barrington cement works no more , shortage of building materials , most of it getting imported

    • ianVisits says:

      There isn’t a shortage of cement, and Cemex stated publically that they closed the Barrington kiln as it was less efficient and environmentally friendly than two of its other plants in the UK.

  4. John Drayton MBE says:

    I was responsible for the digging out of part of the quarry at Barrington
    I managed the quarry for over 30 years until it closed and am glad to see it will be filled in and returned to farm land

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