Cookies on the Crossrail website

We use cookies to ensure we give you the best experience on our website. If you continue, we'll assume that you are happy to receive all cookies on the Crossrail website.

Find out why we use cookies and how to manage your settings.

Crossrail awards major tunnelling contracts worth £1.25bn

By Peter MacLennan

Crossrail awards major tunnelling contracts worth £1.25bn

Tunnel image - High Speed 1 during construction, courtesy of LCR

Crossrail Limited today announced its intention to award the major tunnel contracts for Europe’s largest infrastructure project.

  • Crossrail announces intention to award contracts for major new rail tunnels under central London
  • Significant competition in construction industry for Crossrail tunnel contracts has delivered highly competitive bids and made major contribution to £1bn project savings  
  • UK’s most significant tunnel contracts since Jubilee Line Extension and Channel Tunnel Rail Link

These are the most significant tunnel contracts to be awarded in the UK since the Jubilee Line Extension and Channel Tunnel Rail Link and will provide a much-needed boost to UK construction as well as creating major employment opportunities.

The contracts, worth in the region of £1.25bn, will deliver the construction of 18km of twin-bore tunnels underneath central London. Nearly 21km of twin-bore tunnel will be constructed for Crossrail. Tunnelling activity will commence in late 2011 with the first tunnel boring machine (TBM) starting out on its journey in spring 2012.

The contracts being awarded today are the first of nearly thirty major contracts that will be awarded by Crossrail over the next eighteen months. A further series of tunnelling contracts will be awarded in 2011 including the Thames Tunnel between Plumstead and Woolwich and remaining contracts for tunnel portals and station platform tunnels.

Crossrail will boost London’s rail capacity by ten per cent, delivering new journey opportunities, faster journey times and up to 24 trains per hour between Paddington and Whitechapel during the peak.

The four contract awards are as follows:

C300 – Western Running Tunnels (Royal Oak to Farringdon)

Joint venture comprising: BAM Nuttall Ltd, Ferrovial Agroman (UK) Ltd, Kier Construction Ltd.

C305 – Eastern Running Tunnels (Limmo Peninsula to Farringdon; Limmo Peninsula to Victoria Dock; Stepney Green to Pudding Mill Lane)

Joint venture comprising: Dragados S.A., John Sisk & Son (Holdings) Ltd.

C410 – Early Access Shafts and Sprayed Concrete Lining Works for Bond Street and Tottenham Court Road stations tunnels

Joint venture comprising: BAM Nuttall Ltd, Ferrovial Agroman (UK) Ltd, Kier Construction Ltd.

C510 – Early Access Shafts and Sprayed Concrete Lining Works for Whitechapel and Liverpool Street stations tunnels

Joint venture comprising: Alpine BeMo Tunnelling GmbH, Balfour Beatty Civil Engineering Ltd, Morgan Sindall (Infrastructure) plc, VINCI Construction Grands Projects.

It is intended that C300 and C410 is the subject of a combined award as the new delivery programme allows Crossrail to take advantage of cost-efficiencies in this particular tunnelling section.

In line with European procurement requirements, there now follows a minimum ten day stand-still period before the award of contracts can be confirmed.

Rob Holden, Crossrail Chief Executive said: “Crossrail has now reached a very significant milestone with the award of the main tunnel contracts. The value of the contracts, combined with the length of tunnel to be constructed, is on a scale not seen in the UK since the Jubilee Line Extension or the Channel Tunnel Rail Link. Tunnelling activity will get underway in late 2011.

“Significant competition in the construction industry for Crossrail work has delivered highly competitive bids. Over £1bn in savings to Crossrail’s construction costs have been identified to-date in part due to a more efficient construction timetable and these contract awards will help secure these savings. Crossrail will award a further series of tunnel construction contracts in 2011 including the new Thames Tunnel between North Woolwich and Plumstead. 

“I would like to take this opportunity to thank all of the companies and consortia who participated in these tunnel bids. They each committed a huge amount of resource and we look forward to working with the winners to further develop their ideas with ours to deliver Crossrail in the most efficient and cost-effective way.”

Rail Minister Theresa Villiers said: “Today we take an important step forward in one of Europe's biggest infrastructure projects. These tunnels - stretching 13 miles under the city – will help boost rail capacity across London by 10 per cent, relieving overcrowding on other hard-pressed services. 

"Crossrail is a critical project for this country which has the potential to generate up to £50bn in wider economic benefits for UK GDP and allow the creation of tens of thousands of jobs. Coming fast on the heels of an announcement for around 600 new Crossrail carriages, today is a major milestone in a scheme that will transform journeys across the South East.”

Kulveer Ranger, Mayor of London’s transport advisor said: "Today London is another step closer to making this all important railway a reality. With these contracts in place we can begin burrowing beneath the city's streets to forge the line which will make zipping from east to west even quicker and easier for Londoners, commuters and visitors."

As announced in the Comprehensive Spending Review, a more efficient construction timetable means that Crossrail’s central section will now be delivered in 2018 rather than 2017. It is expected that Crossrail services will commence on the central section by the end of 2018 followed by a phased introduction of services along the rest of the Crossrail route.

In spring 2012, the first two tunnel boring machines will start on their journey from Royal Oak towards Farringdon. This will be followed later in 2012 by the launch of two further tunnel boring machines in Docklands that will head towards Farringdon under central London. Further shorter tunnel drives will take place in the Royal Docks and east London.

Tunnelling teams will work around the clock to complete the tunnels for Europe’s largest infrastructure project with thousands of others employed to upgrade the existing rail network and build major new stations along the central section of the route.

To construct the 21km of twin-bore tunnel required for Crossrail, seven tunnel boring machines will be used and will undertake ten individual tunnel drives and construct the 6m diameter tunnels. Each TBM will be up to 120m in length.

The Western and Eastern running tunnels will have tunnel portals at Royal Oak, Pudding Mill Lane and Victoria Dock. The tunnel boring machines or TBMs will commence their eastbound journey under London from Royal Oak and westbound from the Royal Docks. Construction of the tunnel portal at Royal Oak is now underway.

The TBMs will be purchased by the main tunnels contractors from European manufacturers. There are no UK-based companies that manufacture TBMs.

Londoners will be able to follow the progress of the tunnel boring machines as they make their way under the capital via the Crossrail website. 

Such is the scale of Crossrail that up to 14,000 people will be employed at the peak of construction of the railway between 2013 and 2015 giving Londoners the chance to build and benefit from Crossrail.

Construction is also underway on the new Tunnelling and Underground Construction Academy in east London. It will provide training on the key skills required to work in tunnel excavation and underground construction and aims to address the shortage of people with the necessary skills to work on Crossrail and other tunnelling projects across the UK.

The Academy will offer training to at least 3,500 people in underground construction alone over the lifetime of the project. Currently the nearest tunnelling training centre is in Switzerland. The Academy will start to offer training in spring 2011 and the building will be fully open by summer 2011. 

Crossrail has formed a partnership with Jobcentre Plus which aims to provide local people with opportunities to work on the Crossrail project. Jobcentre Plus works with a network of local job brokerage and outreach agencies to match vacancies to suitable candidates and arrange interviews for short-listed applicants.

NOTE: Many features on the website require Javascript. You can enable it via your browser's preference settings.


For further information contact the Crossrail Press Office on 020 3229 9552 or

Note to editors:

Details about bidder shortlists and further background information about Crossrail tunnelling is contained in the media briefing note.

Download Crossrail Media Briefing Note - Tunnel contract awards 10-12-2010

Tunnels and construction schedule:

A total of 21 km of twin-bore tunnel is required to be constructed for Crossrail.

The five tunnels to be constructed are:

  • Royal Oak to Farringdon west (Drive X) - length of drive approximately 6.2 km
  • Limmo Peninsula in the Royal Docks to Farringdon east (Drive Y) - length of drive approximately 8.3 km
  • Stepney Green to Pudding Mill Lane (Drive Z) - length of drive approximately 2.7 km
  • Limmo Peninsula in the Royal Docks 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

All of this adds up to 42km of bored tunnels located below the busy streets of London.

The contracts announced today are worth in the region of £1.25bn. A combined C300 and C410 contract is worth in the region of £500m with C305 and C510 worth in the region of £500m and £250m respectively.
The contract for Tunnel Drive H (Plumstead to North Woolwich) will be awarded in 2011.

About Crossrail:

Crossrail will run 118 km from Maidenhead and Heathrow in the west, through new twin-bore 21 km tunnels under central London to Shenfield and Abbey Wood in the east. It will bring an additional 1.5 million people within 45 minutes commuting distance of London's key business districts. 

When Crossrail opens it will increase London's rail-based transport network capacity by 10%, supporting regeneration across the capital, helping to secure London's position as a world leading financial centre, and cutting journey times across the city. 

Crossrail will deliver substantial economic benefits for all of London and the South East. Latest economic forecasts suggest that Crossrail will add £42bn to the economy, resulting in a £17bn tax boost for the Treasury. Previous estimates were that Crossrail would deliver up to a £36bn boost to the UK economy.

Crossrail is being delivered by Crossrail Limited (CRL). CRL is a wholly owned subsidiary of Transport for London. Crossrail is jointly sponsored by the Department for Transport and Transport for London. 

Search News