Chairman Pip's Railway Thoughts

Meh…who cares about fish?

Posted in Great Britain, Other general stuff about railways by Chairman Pip on 17 September 2012

You may have noticed that there is a bit of digging going on underneath London. Well, I say “a bit”. Obviously I mean a shitload with Tunnel Boring Machines either on the move or being prepared for launch at various locations digging the tunnels for Crossrail. Obviously, all of this dirt has to go somewhere, and a significant plan for the disposal of much of the spoil is to use it to raise the level of Wallasea Island in the Thames Estuary, which will then have 1,500 acres flooded to create a brand new wetland area that will be used by the RSPB as a wildlife reserve. The brand new Secretary of State for the Environment, Owen Paterson, was at Wallasea today to start the giant conveyor that started dumping the spoil from the transport boats, proudly proclaiming what a boon that the area would be, not just for the environment, but also the local economy:

Turning this into an enormous nature reserve that could generate 100,000 visitors in a few years time, creating a whole new business around here for pubs, bed and breakfasts and all the rest of it, is an enormous gain.
Owen Paterson

There’s no doubt that this is a good use of what is essentially a useless resource. Pretty much all that it could be used for is land reclamation, but it would likely need a load more planning to turn the tunnel spoil into land capable of being built on for either industrial or residential use. So, using it as a way to not only improve the environment but as a way of enhancing the local economy is a good thing.

Currently, in Portsmouth Harbour, is another resource that has ceased to be of use. HMS Ark Royal has been sat, tied up alongside, since she was decommissioned in 2010, with lots of debate as to what her fate should be. Earlier this month, the MoD announced, finally, that she had been sold to Leyal Ship Recycling, a Turkish firm, to be broken up for scrap. This has caused a great deal of heartbreak and dismay, in no small part due to the affection with which she (both this individual ship and the name) is held by the nation. But, even more dismay is the fact that she is a resource that could be re-used in a more constructive way than providing scrap metal for who knows what. A group calling themselves “Wreck the World” put in a bid for the ship in order to scuttle her off the coast of Devon to serve as an artificial reef and dive wreck. This usage is exactly the same as creating the wetlands at Wallasea, and was heavily promoted by councils in the area and local MPs as a way of generating income for the local economy (Tobay Council estimate £10m a year). Instead of this, the MoD has taken a grand total of £3m for the ship, which obviously is a one-off, as once she’s gone, she’s gone and can generate no more income for the United Kingdom. According to the MoD, converting Ark Royal into a dive wreck was “not feasible”, which makes one wonder what conditions they were using to measure the feasibility of the project, given that it was perfectly possible to sink USS Oriskany, a ship nigh on 40 years older than Ark, that had been tied up derelict for 30 years. Could it simply be that the officials inhabiting the MoD (and DEFRA) are fundamentally as narrow minded as the ones at the DfT?

“Wallasea Island nature reserve project construction begins”
“Totnes MP criticises Ark Royal scrapping”
“USS Oriskany CV-34 Sunk For Reef Creation”

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One Response

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  1. Claire said, on 23 September 2012 at 1:54 am

    An artificial reef and dive wreck would have been great uses for HMS Ark Royal. I agree it’s a great shame to break her up and sell her for scrap when there must be all sorts of uses possible for her. What’s more, £3m really doesn’t seem like much for what it is. Proportionally, it’s a very small sum and, tbh, I can’t understand why this decision has been made, because I can’t see how anyone benefits, least of all the government actually.


    Still, a 🙂 for the RSPB reserve. That’s a happy bit of news.

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