Diggers under London

In London ist der Hausbau dermaßen streng reguliert, dass die Superreichen vor Jahren damit begannen, ihre Keller tiefer zu graben und dort Swimming Pools und Kegelbahnen einzurichten. Und mittlerweile sind die Grundstückspreise so hoch, dass es sich nicht mehr lohnt, die Bagger da wieder rauszuholen. Also bleiben sie drin und werden mit einer Mischung aus Erde und Beton zugeschüttet, eine Mischung, die man dort tatsächlich „Hardcore“ nennt.

Unter London sind mittlerweile rund 1000 Bagger vergraben, so viele, dass man mittlerweile beim Kellerausbau ein ganz neues Problem hat: Alte, vergammelte Bagger voller Beton, die man bei der ersten Ausbau-Runde vor ein paar Jahren da unten verrotten lies.

A new solution emerged: simply bury the digger in its own hole. Given the exceptional profits of London property development, why bother with the expense and hassle of retrieving a used digger – worth only £5,000 or £6,000 – from the back of a house that would soon be sold for several million? The time and money expended on rescuing a digger were better spent moving on to the next big deal.

The new method, now considered standard operating practice, is to cover the digger with “hardcore”, a mixture of sand and gravel. Then a layer of concrete is simply poured over the top. Digger? What digger? The digger has literally dug its own grave – just as the boring machines that excavated the Channel Tunnel were abandoned beneath the passage they had just created.

How many of these once perfectly functioning and possibly still serviceable diggers are petrified underneath central London, like those Romans preserved cowering in the corners of houses in Pompeii? Estimates vary. One property developer I asked reckoned at least 1,000; another put the figure at more like 500. In some of London’s newest luxury conversions, “sub-basements” are being tucked beneath the existing basement conversions. But developers are stumbling on a new kind of obstacle as they burrow deeper still: abandoned diggers from the last round of improvements.

New Statesman: The bizarre secret of London’s buried diggers