Underground tunnels have been part of London’s story for nearly 200 years. The 1843 opening of the Thames Foot Tunnel, built using using Marc Isambard Brunel's and Thomas Cochrane's newly invented tunnelling shield technology, by Brunel and his son Isambard Kingdom Brunel, marked the beginning of a boom in underground construction that has continued to the present day. The Tube, the world’s first underground railway, Sir Joseph Bazalgette’s sewers, the now disused Post Office Railway and other essential services have all helped to make London one of the most excavated cities on earth.
Crossrail is Europe’s biggest underground construction project. The project is building a new east-west railway for London and the South East. The Crossrail route will link existing Network Rail services from Reading and Heathrow in the west, and Shenfield and Abbey Wood in the east. This railway is only made possible through the construction of 42 kilometres of new railway tunnels and a further 14 kilometres of station and interchange tunnels.
Building a new railway, up to 40 metres deep through the heart of the capital, is an incredible engineering achievement. The tunnels weave their way through the city’s underground landscape, within touching distance of existing railways as well as beneath some of the most historic buildings in London.
From 2018 Crossrail trains will transport up to 72,000 passengers per hour through these new tunnels, increasing rail capacity and reducing journey times for everyone who crosses the capital.
Building the tunnels is a key part of Crossrail’s story and over the past three years it’s been happening right beneath your feet.
Crossrail’s tunnelling marathon under London is now complete. Crossrail tunnelling began in May 2012 and ended at Farringdon with the arrival of tunnelling machine Victoria.
Over the last three years, eight 1,000 tonne tunnelling machines have bored 42km or 26 miles of new 6.2 diameter rail tunnels under London.
Teams of dedicated workers have been working 24 hours a day to complete the tunnels for Europe's largest civil engineering project with thousands of others employed to upgrade the existing rail network and build major new stations in central London and Docklands.
Crossrail’s deep, large-scale route under London comprised three distinct underground spaces:
Explore how some of the deepest, largest and longest tunnels are being made in the most extensive underground building project in a generation.