Giant tunnel boring machines ready to start Crossrail dig

By Peter MacLennan

Giant tunnel boring machines ready to start Crossrail dig
  • Mayor of London and Transport Secretary reveal the first of eight tunnel boring machines that will carve 21 km of twin-tunnels under London

  • Crossrail is delivering thousands of jobs - £250m worth of contracts awarded to more than 50 UK companies by western tunnels contractor 

The Mayor of London and the Secretary of State for Transport today revealed the giant 1,000 tonne tunnel boring machines that will carve Crossrail’s tunnels under the capital. 

Almost 40 years after the new railway was proposed, this marks a significant milestone in the delivery of this major transport infrastructure project set to add £42 billion to the economy and create thousands of jobs. 

Today, the first of eight enormous machines, each 150 metres long and weighing 1,000 tonnes, will begin their journey to the Royal Oak Portal in west London from where, next week, they will start tunnelling 6.4 km (four miles) east to Farringdon via Bond Street and Tottenham Court Road. The machines are equivalent to 14 London buses end to end with enough force to lift over 2,900 London taxis. 

When Crossrail opens in 2018, it will increase London's rail-based transport network capacity by 10 per cent, support regeneration across the capital and the south east, help to secure London's position as a world leading financial centre, and dramatically cut journey times across the city. Latest economic forecasts suggest that Crossrail will add up to £42 bn to the economy as well as create thousands of skilled jobs and training opportunities. More than 3,000 people are currently working directly on Crossrail, which is Europe’s largest construction project, and thousands more across the UK are working to provide materials and services.

Over the next three years, eight tunnel boring machines will construct a total of 21km (13 miles) of twin-bore tunnel under the capital. The Crossrail route will pass through 37 stations and run 118 km (73 miles) from Maidenhead and Heathrow in the west, to Shenfield and Abbey Wood in the east. 

Secretary of State for Transport Justine Greening said: “Crossrail will make a huge difference to generations of Londoners, reducing journey times, improving connectivity, supporting the economy and creating jobs. It’s exciting that we’ve reached this landmark for this world-class testament to our engineering excellence.”

Boris Johnson, the Mayor of London said: “This mammoth project has already delivered thousands of skilled jobs in London, and once complete will create significant extra capacity to help people travel around this great city, dramatically reducing journey times to support the economic resilience of our capital over decades to come. 

“Crossrail is set to build upon the transport benefits Londoners are already seeing as a result of the Neo-Victorian level of investment that has flowed from the Olympics and the upgrades being delivered on the Tube. The sight today of these mighty tunnelling machines primed for action is a significant step forward in the construction of this vital infrastructure project.”

Crossrail Chairman Terry Morgan said: “The start of tunnelling is a hugely significant and symbolic milestone. Massive progress has been made since the start of Crossrail construction in May 2009 with work underway at nearly twenty sites along the route. Crossrail will bring significant economic and transport benefits to London and the south east with hundreds of British businesses now part of the Crossrail supply chain.”

Crossrail Chief Executive Andrew Wolstenholme said: “The first tunnel boring machine will shortly get underway on its journey from Royal Oak to Farringdon via Paddington, Bond Street and Tottenham Court Road and will arrive at Farringdon in autumn 2013. Further machines will be launched later in 2012 and beyond. The extent the tunnels to be built under London are on a scale not seen for many years. By late 2014, over 21km of twin-bore tunnel will have been constructed.”

More than 50 UK companies are supplying materials and services for the construction of Crossrail’s western tunnels between Royal Oak and Farringdon. Thirty-five of those companies are based outside London. Companies such as DAM Structures in East Yorkshire, Eaves Machining in Bolton and Servaccom Redhall in Hull are already benefiting from Crossrail’s construction. 

DAM Structures, a steel fabrication company, plans to increase their workforce from 45 to 65 people by the end of the year as a direct result of their work on Crossrail while Servacomm Redhall who produce prefabricated buildings have just taken on ten additional employees.

Another 4,000 opportunities are yet to be advertised – providing huge economic opportunities for London and UK businesses to get involved in Crossrail.  

The first tunnel boring machine will be named Phyllis after Phyllis Pearsall who created the London A-Z.  She walked 23,000 streets and a total of 3,000 miles to compile the map. The second tunnel boring machine will be named Ada after Ada Lovelace who was one of the earliest computer scientists. She worked with Charles Babbage on his "analytical engine", and is regarded as having written the first computer program. 

They were among the three winning pairs of names as voted by the British public. The other winners were Victoria and Elizabeth and Sophia and Mary - these names will be used to name the next four tunnel boring machines. 

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Ends

For further information contact the Crossrail Press Office on 020 3229 9552 or email pressoffice@crossrail.co.uk 

Notes to editors

The first tunnel boring machine will now be placed on a self-propelled mobile trailer and moved to Royal Oak Portal, around 400 metres from its current location at Westbourne Park. The Hampden Street footbridge will be temporarily closed on two occasions and carefully jacked-up to allow the tunnel boring machine to progress underneath. Once the tunnel boring machine reaches Royal Oak Portal, final testing will then take place ahead of tunnelling commencing.

Once the first machine has progressed sufficiently, the second tunnel boring machine will then be launched from Royal Oak. When the second tunnel boring machine has reached Paddington, both machines will then progress forward through the Paddington station box to Bond Street and then onwards to Farringdon.

Later this year, the second pair of machines will launch from Limmo in Docklands driving 8.3 km (5.2 miles) west towards Farringdon via Whitechapel and Liverpool Street. In the winter, two tunnel boring machines will be launched from Plumstead travelling 2.6 km (1.6 miles) and under the River Thames to North Woolwich.

Joint Venture partners BAM Nuttall, Ferrovial Agroman and Kier Construction (BFK) were awarded the £500 million western tunnels contract to construct the tunnels between Royal Oak and Farringdon in December 2010.

The first closure of the Hampden Street footbridge will take place from 19:00 on Wednesday 14 March to 07:00 on Thursday 15 March 2012. To move the second tunnel boring machine, a further closure will take place on the weekend of 14/15 April between 19:00 and 07:00. The footbridge will be lifted by hydraulic jacks.

Crossrail launched a tunnel boring machine naming competition in January, inviting the public to submit pairs of names for the competition, receiving a total of 2,500 entrants. A Crossrail panel then shortlisted 10 pairs of names and invited the public to vote for their favourite pair - 4,374 people voted. The three entries that received the most votes will be given to Crossrail's first 6 TBMs.

The winning competition names are:

  •  Ada and Phyllis – Emma Duncan, London
  •  Victoria and Elizabeth – Bryan Evans, Burnham
  •  Mary and Sophia – Ray King, London

The winning entrants will have the option of a prize of either Eurostar vouchers or an annual family pass to Merlin Theme Parks. In addition, three voters who voted for the winning names will shortly be picked at random to receive this prize too.

Prizes were donated by delivery partner Bechtel Limited, Joint Ventures comprising BAM Nuttall, Ferrovial Agroman and Kier Construction (BFK); Dragados S.A and John Sisk & Son (Holdings) Ltd; and Hochtief Construction AG, J Murphy & Sons Ltd.

Arrangements for naming the remaining two tunnel boring machines that will construct the shorter tunnel drive in east London will be confirmed at a later date. These tunnel boring machines will be launched in 2014. 

The concept of Crossrail as a cross-London rail scheme was proposed in the 1974 London Rail Study published by the Greater London Council, the predecessor of the Greater London Authority.

About Crossrail:

The total funding envelope available to deliver Crossrail is £14.8bn.  

The Crossrail route will pass through 37 stations and run 118 km (73 miles) from Maidenhead and Heathrow in the west, through new twin-bore 21 km (13 miles) tunnels to Shenfield and Abbey Wood in the east. 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 services are due to commence through central London in 2018. 

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.

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