42 kilometres of new rail tunnels under London

The Crossrail route will link existing Network Rail services from Maidenhead and Heathrow in the west, and Shenfield and Abbey Wood in the east with new underground stations at Paddington, Bond Street, Tottenham Court Road, Farringdon, Liverpool Street and Whitechapel.


21kms of new twin-bore tunnels are being constructed to deliver the new rail tunnels through which the Crossrail trains will operate. The five tunnels to be constructed are:

  • Royal Oak to Farringdon west (Drive X) - length of drive approximately 6.4 km
  • Limmo to Farringdon east (Drive Y) - length of drive approximately 8.3 km
  • Pudding Mill Lane to Stepney Green (Drive Z) - length of drive approximately 2.7 km
  • Limmo to Victoria Dock Portal (Drive G) - length of drive approximately 0.9 km
  • Plumstead to North Woolwich (Drive H) - length of drive approximately 2.6 km

Each of these drives will construct both the eastbound and westbound tunnels. All of this adds up to 42km of bored tunnels located below the busy streets of London.

Eight giant tunnelling boring machines, or TBMs, are being used to construct the new tunnels.  Each 1000 tonne machine will weave their way between existing underground lines, sewers, utility tunnels and building foundations from station to station at depths of up to 40m.

Tunnelling vertical alignment diagram, August 2013

Crossrail tunnelling drives

Crossrail tunnelling drives diagram

Crossrail began building its first tunnel in May 2012 when the first pair of tunnelling machines, Phyllis and sister TBM Ada, started tunnelling at Royal Oak in west London.

Teams of dedicated construction workers are working 24 hours a day to complete the tunnels for Europe's largest civil engineering project.

The new tunnels will surface via newly constructed tunnel portals at Royal Oak, Pudding Mill Lane, North Woolwich, Victoria Dock, and Plumstead.

Crossrail tunnelling machine progress

Crossrail tunnelling machines progress

Download Tunnelling brochure

Constructing our tunnels

The tunnelling strategy for the western section of the Crossrail route (from Royal Oak Portal to Farringdon) is quite different from the eastern tunnelled sections (between Farringdon and Victoria Dock Portal, and between North Woolwich and Plumstead portals).

In the west the tunnel boring machines (TBMs) were launched at Royal Oak Portal to tunnel towards east of Farringdon creating the running tunnels first, after which the station tunnels will be enlarged around the running tunnels. These TBMs will pass under station sites at PaddingtonBond StreetTottenham Court Road and Farringdon.

In the east (tunnel drives between Limmo Peninsula to Farringdon and Victoria Dock Portal in the east London), the station tunnels and underground structures will be built before the TBMs pass these locations. The stations located on this section are Liverpool StreetWhitechapelCanary Wharf.

In the southeast, two tunnel boring machines will be used to drive a new tunnel beneath the River Thames, launching from Plumstead portal and driving through a pre-built station box at Woolwich

Read more about the strategy for each of our tunnel drives using the links below.

Explore Crossrail

WESTERN TUNNELS - ROYAL OAK TO FARRINGDON

WESTERN TUNNELS - ROYAL OAK TO FARRINGDON

The western tunnel drive, between Royal Oak and Farringdon will be the point at which the existing Network Rail services... Read more

EASTERN TUNNELS - LIMMO PENINSULA TO FARRINGDON AND PUDDING MILL LANE TO STEPNEY GREEN

EASTERN TUNNELS - LIMMO PENINSULA TO FARRINGDON AND PUDDING MILL LANE TO STEPNEY GREEN

At approximately 8.3 km in length, Limmo Peninsular to Farringdon (Drive Y) will be the longest of the 5 Crossrail... Read more

THAMES TUNNEL - PLUMSTEAD TO NORTH WOOLWICH

THAMES TUNNEL - PLUMSTEAD TO NORTH WOOLWICH

To deliver Crossrail services to Abbey Wood, a new tunnel will be built underneath the River Thames between Plumstead... Read more

BREATHING NEW LIFE INTO THE CONNAUGHT TUNNEL

BREATHING NEW LIFE INTO THE CONNAUGHT TUNNEL

To deliver the Crossrail branch to Abbey Wood, a major proportion of the construction work involves reusing disused... Read more