London & South East

Digging for success


Designed to transform rail transport across London, Crossrail is a £14.8bn project that covers 38 designated stations – including nine new stations – with the aim of increasing capacity, supporting regeneration and cutting journey times.

Crossrail is Europe’s largest construction project and to date, more than 35 million working hours have been completed on the project so far.

The Crossrail route will run over 100km from Maidenhead and Heathrow in the west, through new tunnels under central London to Shenfield and Abbey Wood in the east. New stations created as part of the project include, Paddington, Bond Street, Tottenham Court Road, Farringdon, Liverpool Street, Whitechapel, Canary Wharf, Woolwich and Custom House.

Work started on Crossrail in May 2009 and with construction making great progress on the project, the first services through central London will begin in late 2018. Once work is complete on the scheme, an additional 1.5 million people will be able to access key areas of the capital within just 45 minutes.

Last year was a significant year for Crossrail with work commencing to build a ‘London tunnelling marathon’ of 26 miles (42km) of new tunnels beneath London. More than 11 miles were built, seeing seven tunnelling machines brought into operation.


Each tunnelling machine is a 1,000 tonne, 150 meters long underground factory with 20 person ‘tunnel gangs’ working in shifts. At peak, the tunnelling machines aim for around 100 meters of tunnelling progress per week. The push force of these powerful machines is equivalent to the force needed to lift over 2,900 London taxis.

There are five tunnels currently under construction which comprise a core element of the building programme. Royal Oak to Farringdon West – nicknamed Drive X – spans approximately 6.4 kilometres; this tunnel will be the point at which existing Network Rail services on the western section of the route enter the tunnels under central London.

Limmo Peninsula to Farringdon East is the second drive spanning 8.3 kilometres which is the longest of all the tunnels in the programme. Unlike the western tunnels, the station and tunneling access shafts on the eastern drive are constructed prior to the arrival of the tunnel boring machines. The tunneling machines breakthrough into each of the pre-constructed underground caverns where they will undergo planned maintenance before continuing on their journeys towards Farringdon.

Pudding Mill Lane to Stepney Green, Drive Z, is 2.7 kilometres long and again comprises the eastern section of the tunnels. TBM’s have worked tirelessly throughout the night in a bid to construct Crossrail’s longest tunnel drive in record time. Limmo to Victoria Dock Portal, Drive G, spans a modest 0.9 kilometres with the final tunnel spanning 2.6 kilometres starting at Plumstead and finishing at North Woolwich.


The 21 kilometres of new twin-bore tunnels, through which the Crossrail trains will operate, will mainly be complete by the end of 2014, along with the major civil engineering works. Moving into 2015 and through to 2017, the major fit-out of stations and tunnels will continue, along with major upgrades for the existing rail network for Crossrail services by Network Rail.

The first new Crossrail rolling stock will also start to replace existing suburban trains between Liverpool Street and Shenfield. In late 2018, the first Crossrail services will start through the central London tunnelled section. Meanwhile, in late 2019 the full Crossrail service will be operating from Heathrow and Maidenhead to Abbey Wood and Shenfield.

 Crossrail achieves an unprecedented fortnight of milestones

Crossrail services will open in 2018 and will provide transportation to around 200 million passengers each year. The construction programme, which has been underway for many years, reached a number of milestones in January 2014.

A number of new train tunnels have been completed and three spectacular tunnel boring machine breakthroughs have occurred. Crossrail’s western tunnels are now structurally complete with tunnelling machine, TBM, Ada reaching the end of her journey at Farringdon on 24 January, having set out from Royal Oak near Paddington in August. This follows the arrival of her sister machine Phyllis at Farringdon in October 2013.

Over in southeast London, TBM Sophia has completed Crossrail’s first tunnel beneath the Thames, arriving at the North Woolwich Portal on 29 January, having started south of the river in Plumstead last August.


TBM Jessica has also completed her tunnelling journey from Pudding Mill Lane and broke through into one of Europe’s largest mined caverns beneath Stepney Green on 3 February. In addition, tunnelling machine Elizabeth made a spectacular entrance into the new Crossrail station at Whitechapel on 20 January on her journey from Limmo Peninsula to Farringdon. Her sister machine Victoria also broke through into Stepney Green on 30 January.

Crossrail has also finished civil construction of the first of two new Bond Street station ticket halls. The western ticket hall on Davies Street is five storeys underground, with works starting earlier this month on a passenger tunnel to connect the Crossrail ticket hall to the existing underground station.

The milestones continue for Crossrail’s impressive construction progress, which has passed the halfway mark on time and within budget. In 2014 the project will transition from major civil engineering work to station and tunnel fit-out. 30km out of 42km of bored tunnels are now complete.

Andrew Wolstenholme OBE, Crossrail Chief Executive said:

“The tunnelling teams deserve tremendous credit for their safe and efficient progress in constructing this major new railway under London. The end is now in sight for Crossrail tunnelling with over 70 per cent of the new rail tunnels now constructed. The next major element of the Crossrail programme will now begin with the fit-out of our tunnels and stations.”


The construction process has encountered difficulties. Ada’s 6.9 kilometre journey has been particularly challenging for engineers as they had to navigate a complex web of Tube lines in order to build foundation piles and infrastructure up to 30 metres beneath central London. This included passing less than a metre above the operational Northern line at Tottenham Court Road.

Bombardier on board

Bombardier, the world’s only manufacturer of planes and trains, has received a major boost thanks to the Crossrail scheme. The firm were awarded a £1 billion contract to provide 65 trains for the London Crossrail project with the news being unveiled on the 6th February this year.

The Department for Transport (DfT) has revealed that the contract will create 760 new manufacturing jobs and 80 apprenticeships and is a great boost to the employment market. The trains will be manufactured and assembled at Bombardier’s plant in Derby.

Canada’s Bombardier beat Japan’s Hitachi and Spain’s CAF to secure the deal. After Bombardier lost out to German firm Siemens to build new train carriages for the London-based Thameslink route in 2011 this contract acts as a much needed boost for the Derby-based manufacturer.


Unite national officer Julia Long said: “This is great news for the workforce at Bombardier and for Derby. After the disastrous handling of the Thameslink contract this news must come as a massive relief for the skilled men and women at Bombardier.”

The award of the Crossrail contract will secure work to the end of the decade for Bombardier’s Derby train factory, which was established in 1839 as the Derby Midland Railway Workshops. The £1bn Crossrail order is the largest it has won since 2003, when it secured a £3.4bn contract for just over 1,700 carriages for London Underground.

H+E Logistik

Established in 1999, H+E provides conveyor belt systems for the smooth transportation of excavated material during tunnel construction projects.

H+E Logistik supplies tunnel belt conveyor systems, back-up conveyors for tunnel boring machines and conveying systems for the mining construction industry, the ports and harbour sector, and for all companies which have a lot to move. The company has headquarters in Bochum, Germany, and work on mechanical, as well as conventional driven tunnel and mining projects.

H+E Logistick Project Manager, Dirk Uphues, said:

“We have co-operated with companies for many years, all of whom work in accordance with our though demands on quality. These partners facilitate the production of H+E systems in different countries all over the world and in all manufacturing sectors.”

Working on Crossrail project, H+E Logistick was involved with the Crossrail C300/C305 from Paddington to Limmo Peninsular/Pudding Mill Lane. Working on the project, H+E Logistik supplied more than 25 km of tunnel conveyors and different kinds of material handling systems.

In building these tunnels, the challenge for H+E was to guide the muck securely through the narrow curve sections of the tunnel route. Through the use of booster stations H+E Logistick were able to master this task to meet its customer’s satisfaction.

Dirk said:

“Every project is a challenge but Crossrail is the biggest infrastructure project in Europe in the capital city of London. Limited space and the sticky material are the biggest challenges in these projects.”

Dirk added:

“We are proud to be involved in some of the most difficult construction projects all over the world.”

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