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Monster lift sends east London tunnelling machines 40 metres underground

Monster lift sends east London tunnelling machines 40 metres underground

Crossrail has marked a major milestone in the construction of London’s new rail line with the lowering of a 550 tonne tunnelling machine into a 40 metre deep shaft in east London last night (Thursday), ahead of the start of tunnelling for Crossrail’s eastern section of the new rail line.

The delicate operation required one of the largest cranes in Europe to lift the equivalent of 280 London taxis.

Perfect weather conditions were needed and the light winds and no rain allowed for Elizabeth to be moved underground.

The team at Limmo Peninsula, adjacent to Canning Town station, will shortly repeat the operation with sister machine, Victoria.

Elizabeth will start tunnelling later this year, travelling under the River Lea towards Canary Wharf. Work has started to prepare Crossrail’s Canary Wharf station to receive Elizabeth, with workers breaking out the hard concrete at the tunnel eyes to allow for the machines to easily enter the station next year.

Both tunnelling machines will receive maintenance while in the large station box, before continuing their journeys toward Whitechapel, Liverpool Street and Farringdon.

The Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, said: “The transformational force of Crossrail is now coming ever nearer to central London. With every twist of these giant boring machines we are unleashing the huge economic opportunities stemming from this ambitious infrastructure project. Furthermore, the construction of Crossrail’s eastern section is demonstrating London's world-class engineering expertise and providing thousands of technical training and job opportunities.”

Andrew Wolstenholme, Crossrail’s Chief Executive said: “This is a significant milestone for Crossrail’s progress in east London. Elizabeth and Victoria will construct Crossrail’s longest tunnel section - 8.3 kilometres between Canning Town and Farringdon. When Crossrail is completed it will dramatically improve transport in east London and bring places like Custom House and Abbey Wood to within 20 minutes of London’s major employment areas.”

The 1,350 tonne crane took weeks to assemble and includes heavy duty equipment to carry Elizabeth and Victoria on their descent into the enormous main shaft built at the site.

A smaller crane will lift the 10 gantries that form the back-up trailers of the tunnelling machine and carry the materials to support the tunnelling effort. The assembly of the tunnelling machines and their gantries will be completed underground creating two 148 metre long tunnelling factories.

After both machines and their gantries are safely in the shaft, a large conveyer system will be constructed to take the earth from the bottom of the shaft onto nearby ships. The two machines will use large shove frames to push themselves forward into the earth.

Works are also being completed on the River Lea to construct a jetty to berth ships that will take 1.2 million tonnes of earth to Wallasea Island to create a new RSPB nature reserve as well as a facility to dock barges that will bring 120,000 concrete segments from Chatham in Kent to line the tunnels.

Crossrail began building its first tunnel in May of this year, when the first tunnelling machine, Phyllis, closely followed by Ada, started tunnelling at Royal Oak in west London. Eight tunnelling machines will construct a total of 21 kilometres of twin tunnels under London.

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

Notes to editors:

Joint Venture Dragados Sisk are constructing the eastern tunnels between Limmo Peninsula and Farringdon, Pudding Mill Lane and Stepney Green and Victoria Dock Portal and Limmo.

The crane, supplied by Weldex International, is Europe’s largest and has the capacity to lift 1350 tonnes in a single lift.

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 below central London 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 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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