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Restoration of derelict Victorian rail tunnel complete

By Nick Mann

  • Docklands rail tunnel built in 1878 to be brought back into use for Crossrail
  • Three years of work to widen and strengthen the tunnel ready for modern trains

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.

Linda Miller, Connaught Tunnel Project Manager said: “It’s great to know that, thanks to our work, this 135 year old tunnel will once again have a vital role to play in London’s transport network. Once Crossrail opens in 2018, up to 12 trains an hour will pass through the tunnel beneath the Royal Docks, hugely improving links between southeast London and the rest of the capital.”

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.

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

About Crossrail:

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

The Crossrail route will pass through 40 stations and run more than 100km from Reading 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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