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The light at the end of the tunnel

Last Updated on 25th April 2022

Words by Jon Bedford, Senior Geospatial Imaging Analyst, Historic England

“Many historical projects hold great significance to a location’s cultural heritage, and indeed, its people. For our team at Historic England, this is the fundamental concept to our work in order to conserve pieces of our country’s history.

That much was evident with our latest project, the Ramsgate Tunnels, a five-kilometre network of underground passageways which were paramount to the war effort and the safety of local people of Ramsgate, Kent.

Once used as an underground narrow gauge railway, built to connect the town and docks to help improve trade links to Europe, the railway soon became a target for enemy bombing. It was therefore decided a network of tunnels should be constructed to protect the people of Ramsgate, and as such, work began in 1939. Capable of sheltering 60,000 people during World War II, the tunnels were to become the most extensive underground public shelter system in the world, and subsequently, a historical site for tourists to flock.

After falling into disrepair, leaving behind a long-existing collapse in one area of the tunnels, our team at Historic England was invited to work alongside Ramsgate’s Heritage Action Zone

in order to redevelop the area’s much-loved historical sites. Enlisting the help of GeoSLAM’s ZEB HORIZON to provide a preliminary map of the damage, plans were put in place to assess tunnels that were previously inaccessible in order to extend visitor access.

The ZEB HORIZON allowed our team to reach further down each channel where we needed a quick overview of the extent of the damage, and its approximate location relative to the surface.

A total of nine scans comprised the complete survey, taking around 10 minutes for each scan. Compared to to a static scanner, GeoSLAM’s ZEB HORIZON improved the speed of the scanning process dramatically.”