Over the past two years we provided exclusive access to the BBC’s producers Windfall Films who spent time with our tunnellers and engineers as construction of the new railway progressed. They witnessed the engineering challenges and key milestones including the spectacular tunnel machine breakthroughs.
Find out more about some of the stars of each episode by clicking on the links below.
- Episode One: Urban Heart Surgery
- Episode Two: Tunnels Under The Thames
- Episode Three: Platforms And Plague Pits
Episode One: Urban Heart Surgery
The first episode follows the team of workers as they drive 1,000-tonne tunnel boring machine, Ada, through Tottenham Court Road station within 800mm of the operating Northern line.
It also looks at how Crossrail has ensured Bonhams auction house in Mayfair is able to receive its vintage cars for auction.
Ed Batty – Shift Engineer, TBM Ada
As first jobs go there are fewer larger - and potentially more daunting - than tunnelling below the streets of one of the world’s busiest cities with a TV camera crew charting your progress. For Ed Batty it not only became the norm, but also proved to be the start of a whirlwind two years.
Ed joined the project as a Tunnel Boring Machine (TBM) shift engineer in 2012 following three years of industry training. He was part of the team that helped construct the eastbound running tunnels between Paddington and Farringdon and soon found a documentary camera crew joining him as the tunnelling machine meandered its way through a maze of existing underground tunnels and utilities under Tottenham Court Road.
Ed said: “It was the prospect of working on some of the most challenging and complex projects in Europe that made me choose a career in construction. The job literally is always changing and everyday brings a new challenge. I like to test myself."
Following the completion of the Paddington to Farringdon tunnels, Ed moved on to the new Bond Street station and been recently promoted to BFK’s Shift Manager where he will be managing a team of 17 miners and engineers.
Find out more about Ed's experience working on the Crossrail project on the Official Crossrail Tumblr blog.
Andy Alder – Crossrail Project Manager for Western Tunnels
Andy Alder wants to change the world; one engineering project at a time. The 6’4” rugby player and kayaker was destined for building big tunnels.
A seasoned tunneller, Andy has been working in the industry for the best part of two decades and has seen his fair share of major tunnelling projects after digging on no fewer than four continents. Among them has been a tunnel under the Suez Canal and transport tunnels in Malaysia and Canada.
In the UK, Andy has worked on the Jubilee Line Extension, Channel Tunnel Rail Link, the Docklands Light Railway and upgrades to London Underground’s Tottenham Court Road station.
Andy has led a team delivering Crossrail’s western running tunnels between Royal Oak and Farringdon since 2009 as well as the station tunnels at Bond Street and Tottenham Court Road.
Andy said: “The scale of the job is huge; we’re building vast tunnels right under the West End of London while allowing life in Soho to carry on above.
“I was drawn to engineering from an early age as I enjoyed building things, and making things work. I chose civil engineering as I liked the scale of the work, and the opportunity to build projects that change the world for the better.”
Video: Tottenham Court Road - Behind the Hoardings
Take a guided tour behind the scenes of construction progress at Tottenham Court Road station with Andy in this short video.
Steve Parker – Construction Manager, Western Tunnels
Taking on some of the largest construction projects in the UK and Saudi Arabia seems a long way from curiously gazing at holes in the road in his first job some 28-years ago for Steve Parker.
Every inch of Steve’s technical nous was tested during his spell on Crossrail as he ensured that the massive tunnel boring machines cutting through the earth below the streets of London navigated through the maze of existing utility and London Underground infrastructure without impacting on services. To add to the pressure, one of the most challenging moments, the crossing of the Northern line, Steve’s every step was captured for the BBC TWO documentary.
Steve said: “Tunnelling so close to existing train tunnels and utilities with no impact on daily operations was a challenge. At Tottenham Court Road we were sitting just 800mm over the Northern line platforms in a 900 tonne tunnelling machine and no one was any the wiser. That took a real team effort.
“It seems a long time ago that I would stand watching the men digging holes in the road and wondered what they were doing yet I still have the same curiosity and enthusiasm for the job as I did as a youngster.”
After completing his tunnels, Steve joined the $10bn Riyadh Metro Project as Tunnel Project Manager before recently returning to London to work as Tunnel Project Manager on Ferrovial’s bid for the Thames Tideway Tunnels contract.
Andy Mitchell – Crossrail Programme Director
Most people during their younger years have played with Lego, but for Andy Mitchell his hobby as a youngster was simply the building blocks towards a much larger career.
Now using much larger kits, he has led Crossrail’s £14.8bn construction programme since 2009.
Andy has over 33 years experience in the construction and engineering sector and has worked across the globe including on projects in the UAE, South Africa, France and Hong Kong.
Andy said: “I think it was when I got my first Lego kit as a child that my interest in building started. Construction and engineering has been my life for more years than I’d care to count but it’s been a wonderful experience and allowed me to work on some huge projects all over the world.
“I’ve worked on all sorts of different projects including petrochemical construction and coal, gas and nuclear power generation as well as building airports and railways but I think that Crossrail is a particular highlight as it’s an amazingly complex project that has to take place almost silently below ground as London carries on blissfully unaware of the scale of the project taking place under its feet.”
Andy left Crossrail in July 2014 to join Thames Tideway Tunnels Ltd as Chief Executive Officer.
EPISODE TWO: TUNNELS UNDER THE THAMES
The episode sees the Bermingham father and son team follow in the tradition of tunneling greats, the Brunels, and build new train tunnels under the River Thames in southeast London.
Meanwhile, Project Manager Linda Miller is rebuilding the Victorian Connaught Tunnel under the Royal Docks.
Linda Miller - Project Manager, Connaught Tunnel
With a CV that boasts serving as a paratrooper and helicopter pilot in the US army, an engineer on a new Cape Canaveral launch complex and now working as Project Manager on the Crossrail project; Linda has been there, done it and probably made the t-shirt along the way.
“I love the work. It’s an industry full of loud, robust people, using great big toys, doing a job most people think is impossible,” Linda said.
Linda joined Crossrail in 2010, with over 20 years construction experience under her belt, and took the reins as the Project Manager for renovations to the 130-year-old Victorian Connaught Tunnel. She’s has overseen the installation of a cofferdam and draining of part of the Royal Docks to allow for tunnel size to be enlarged to provide space for the new Crossrail trains to pass through – both of which formed part of the story for the documentary.
This is not Linda’s first time in front of the documentary cameras. Back in her native America, Linda featured in a US Public Broadcasting System (PBS) documentary while working on the Boston Central Artery, a 161 mile road and tunnel project.
Wherever Linda has worked she has regularly found herself being one of the few female faces on site. This is not surprising with just 8.5 per cent of engineers in the UK being women.
Linda, who is employed by Crossrail’s delivery partner Bechtel, said: “At Connaught we have performed what I call ‘open heart surgery’ on this 130 year old Victorian tunnel and not only brought it back to life, but turned it into a 21st Century piece of railway.”
Alex Mitchell – Site Engineer, Connaught Tunnel
Fresh out of university, Alex, landed her dream job on Crossrail’s Connaught Tunnel.
The Northumberland born Site Engineer graduated from Leeds University in 2011 before joining the team led by Linda Miller.
Working closely with her team, Alex took on some huge engineering challenges - including overseeing the construction of a cofferdam and the enlarging and reinforcing of the old Victorian tunnel.
“At the time we filmed the documentary I was a site engineer working for the Principle Contractor, Taylor Woodrow,” said Alex. “The job satisfaction of seeing the finished tunnel, knowing that you had a big part in making it happen, and the effect it has on the surrounding environment is second-to-none. I can't wait to travel on the first trains that run through Connaught Tunnel and tell people, I helped build that.
“Crossrail is a massive project and to have my first job here was something I’ll never forget. This is going to be a hard one to top in the future.”
Since leaving Connaught, Alex joined Crossrail’s Thames Tunnel team and is currently working as a Section Engineer on the Bexhill to Hastings Link Road for Taylor Woodrow.
Gus Scott – Thames Tunnel
As Project Manager for the delivery of the Thames Tunnel contract, Liverpool-born Gus featured heavily in the filming schedule as he demonstrated the work being undertaken at Plumstead through to North Woolwich.
“My family are looking forward to finally seeing what I have been doing for the last eight years. My young son still thinks I’m out there with a shovel digging the tunnels by hand. I think my mates are looking forward to ripping into me,” he said.
Expressing a passion for all things subterranean, Gus has had his hands full as filming coincided with the construction of two tunnels between Crossrail’s Woolwich Station and North Woolwich tunnel entrance.
Gus came to Crossrail with a wealth of international experience having worked in the US, Spain, Turkey, eastern Europe, Algeria and Gabon.
For the past eight years he has worked on different aspects of the Crossrail project including the last three leading the construction of the new Crossrail Thames Tunnel.
Gus said: “It’s been a fantastic project to get involved in and the first breakthrough of the tunnelling machine Sophia in May 2013 was pretty special.”
A keen sports fan, Gus is a supporter of Liverpool Football Club and enjoys a game of rugby. He is a chartered mechanical engineer and recently left the Crossrail project to return to Bechtel Civil as their Global Proposals Manager.
The Berminghams: Peter, Rob and Dan - Crossrail Thames Tunnels
In the world of tunnelling the Bermingham name is somewhat legendary.
For over half a century a Bermingham in one shape or another has been involved in tunnelling both here and abroad; a fact that looks set to continue for many years to come.
In recent times the trio of Berminghams – Peter (above centre) and his two sons Rob (above right) and Dan (above left) – have been teaming up to bring their years of experience to Crossrail’s Thames Tunnel project.
Site Managers Peter and Dan and TBM Superintendent Rob have all been making sure Crossrail’s two tunnel drives under the Thames go to plan. The monumental breakthrough for Tunnel Boring Machines (TBMs) Sophia and Mary was a particular highlight as it was Peter’s ninth and tenth times under the Thames – a record for the industry.
Peter said: “When I started out tunnelling back in 1964, I never thought that I’d still be doing it 50 years later. Going under the Thames for the tenth time as part of Crossrail felt pretty special, in particular on a project that is going to have such a big impact on London.”
Rob added: “It’s a family business – my father, brother, uncles and cousins have all been involved over the years. I begun my tunnelling career on the TBM for the construction of the Channel Tunnel at the tender age of 19 and by 33 I had driven tunnel boring machines under London, Sydney and Singapore.
“It’s been wonderful to see my father get the send off he deserves after 50 years in the industry, Crossrail has been a fitting swan song to an unparalleled career.”
Following Mary’s breakthrough, Peter hung up his hard-hat for the final time and has started his well earned retirement. Both Rob and Dan continue to work on the project.
Dan concluded: “My dad’s a bit of a legend in the tunnelling industry. After half a century working underground, he’s certainly earned a good break. We’ll all miss having him around at work.”
David Wilde and Paul Osborne – Connaught Tunnel
With a background in structural design the prospect of working as part of a project to revitalise a 150 year old Victorian-built tunnel on the Crossrail route was one too good to pass up.
David played a key role in designing the renovation of Connaught Tunnel, turning it from a piece of Victorian infrastructure into a 21st Century modern railway tunnel.
David Said: “It’s not often that you get to work with original designs made over 130 years ago when you build a modern railway. Seeing the original designs showed just how thoughtful and innovative the original engineers were when they build structures like Connaught. They built Connaught Tunnel to last and while technology has vastly changed and health and safety has improved, the principals of tunnel construction are very similar if not the same.”
Although nothing like his namesake Ozzy, Paul brought his rock-star qualities to Connaught to help make a success of a project that would have had lesser men barking at the moon.
Arriving on the project in 2011, Paul has been the Taylor Woodrow Project Manager for the Connaught Tunnel during a time that has seen a variety of highly technical work take place including the construction of the cofferdam and resizing of the existing tunnels.
With nearly 35 years of experience behind him was well placed to take on the day-to-day challenges that the 130 year old Victorian tunnel had to throw at him.
Paul said: “When I was getting into construction all those years ago it was the possibility of doing something different everyday that really appealed to me”.
“It’s been a great project to work on and a highlight was reopening the Docks after we finished the tunnel works, three days before the deadline for massive defence ships to pass through the Dock was a particular highlight for me on this project.”
EPISODE 3: PLATFORMS AND PLAGUE PITS
The final episode tracks the team as they construct the cathedral-sized new station at Canary Wharf.
The cameras join engineers as they carve out the underground caverns that will become the new stations at Liverpool Street and Whitechapel. And, it follows archaeologists as they uncover a 14th Century emergency burial ground, established ahead of the plague.
Jules Boyd – Construction Manager, Whitechapel and Liverpool Street sprayed concrete lined tunnels
The epitome of the ultimate handyman, Jules has a knack of turning his hand at most things with a skill set that encompasses creating some of Crossrail’s largest underground caverns , renovating houses and most recently working wonders in front of the TV cameras.
With a string of major construction projects under his belt, and over 25 years experience to his name, Jules has had a varied an interesting career to date. Starting out as a mining engineer on the Channel Tunnel back in 1988, Jules has worked on the Heathrow Express Station at Terminal 4 as well as projects in Denmark, Sweden and Slovakia.
Now the all-action Jules works as Crossrail’s Project Construction Manager for the Whitechapel and Liverpool Street sites enjoys the camaraderie of working underground.
“I’m a Mining Engineer which is ruffty tuffty by nature and exciting,” explained Jules. “I get to work with big machines and get to see the world. When I’m not working here I’m down on the south coast renovating my home. I like to keep busy.
“I can’t say I’m looking forward to seeing myself on the TV for this documentary; in fact I’m too embarrassed to tell my friends and family I’ve even done it.”
Dave Shepherd – Site Manager, Eastern Running Tunnels
Dave came to Crossrail with over 30 years tunnelling and heavy construction experience and has used all his knowledge to ensure the success of the project.
Having worked in the construction and engineering industry since 1979, Dave has been involved in some of London and the UK’s largest projects - including the construction of the Channel Tunnel, The Jubilee Line Extension, and the London Tunnels Section of the Channel Tunnel Rail Link - before moving on to Crossrail in 2010.
Dave is no stranger to tunnelling machine breakthroughs and has played a role in six while working on the project. It was the Whitechapel breakthroughs captured on camera for the documentary that Dave took a starring role on board tunnelling machine Elizabeth as she broke through at Whitechapel.
Dave whose role is Crossrail Site and Tunnel Manager for Crossrail’s eastern tunnels between Canning Town and Farringdon said: “I’ve been involved in a number of breakthroughs now but seeing one first hand still is a thrill and a highlight personally for me. It’s great to be part of something that has such a lasting impression on the landscape of the capital.”
Jay Carver - Archaeology Specialist for Crossrail
For as long as Jay can remember he has been digging up archaeology having joined his father on archaeology digs across Europe as a child.
He came to the Crossrail project with over 20 years professional experience with his work taking him around the globe on major transport and utility infrastructure projects including Peru, France, Lebanon, Africa and Serbia.
But it’s closer to home that Jay has been in his element helping to uncover over 10,000 previously undiscovered artefacts across Crossrail’s worksites. The new railway has provided the opportunity for the largest archaeology programme ever undertaken in the UK with finds ranging from Ice Age large mammal fossils and prehistoric stone tools to Roman objects, medieval plague-pit skeletons and even Tudor bowling balls.
Uncovering London’s hidden past has been an exciting proposition for Jay and his team. Capturing a snapshot of the capital’s varied history has provided archaeologists, palaeontologists and historians with a greater understanding of London’s long history.
Jay said: “I have a real love of geography, history and outdoor life. Construction and archaeology may not have gone hand-in-hand in the past but in recent times we’ve seen greater collaboration between the groups.”
“Being part of a project like Crossrail and getting to uncover these items from below the streets of one of the busiest cities in the world is an opportunity that doesn’t occur too often. We’ve exposed finds spanning thousands of years and it’s helping us to gain a greater understanding this city’s varied and complex past.”
Michael Bryant - Operations Executive at Canary Wharf station
Michael has been one of the project’s constants having been with part of the team since the beginning of 2008, some 17 months before the start of construction work in May 2009.
Working for Canary Wharf Contractors Limited, the project delivery arm of Canary Wharf Group plc, Michael and the team have been responsible for the construction of Crossrail's Canary Wharf station and made it the most advanced Crossrail site on the project.
Michael said: "I get great satisfaction from being part of something that creates infrastructure that contributes to the benefit of society.
“I've worked in the industry for around 40 years and I still get the buzz seeing the work progress, be it one of the project's TBMs breaking through at Canary Wharf or handing over of the station box to Crossrail and it's tunnelling contractor five months ahead of schedule."