To deliver the Crossrail branch to Abbey Wood, a major proportion of the construction work involves reusing disused rail infrastructure including the Connaught Tunnel on the former North London Line branch to North Woolwich and disused National Rail tracks to Custom House - which both closed to passenger traffic in December 2006.
Work to breathe new life into the Connaught Tunnel – a disused rail tunnel in Docklands – has been completed as part of the Crossrail project.
The 550m long tunnel runs below the Royal Docks next to ExCeL London, close to London City Airport. The tunnel was built in 1878 and has not been in passenger use since December 2006.
Work was required to deepen, strengthen and widen the structure and to remove 135 years of coal and soot from the steam trains that originally used the tracks. Last summer, 13 million litres of water were drained from the dock that runs above the tunnel to allow Crossrail workers to access the structure from above. The work in the tunnel has featured in BBC2’s documentary The Fifteen Billion Dollar Railway, the third and final episode of which will be broadcast at 9pm on Wednesday.
The rail tunnel originally served the Royal Docks when they formed the largest enclosed docks in the world, serving large ships from all over the globe. It survived a hit from a bomb during WW2 and is the only existing tunnel that will be re-used for Crossrail.
The tracks, overhead cables and communications systems required to run the trains will begin to be installed next year. Up to 12 trains an hour in each direction will pass through the tunnel, reducing journey times and supporting the wider regeneration of the Royal Docks.
With Crossrail, the journey from Abbey Wood to Bond Street will be around 20 minutes quicker and passengers travelling to Heathrow will be able to cut around 40 minutes off their journey.