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Crossrail completes unprecedented fortnight of tunnelling milestones

By Hamish McDougall

Crossrail completes unprecedented fortnight of tunnelling milestones
  • Crossrail’s western tunnels completed as tunnel boring machine (TBM) Ada reaches her final destination at Farringdon
  • London’s newest Thames tunnel completed as TBM Sophia concludes her journey from Plumstead to North Woolwich while TBM Jessica finishes at Stepney Green cavern
  • 42km tunnelling marathon is now 70% complete with over 30km of new rail tunnel under London now constructed

Crossrail has delivered an unprecedented fortnight of construction progress ranging from completion of new train tunnels to three spectacular tunnel boring machine breakthroughs.

Crossrail’s western tunnels are now structurally complete with tunnelling machine (TBM) Ada reaching the end of her journey at Farringdon on 24 January, having set out from Royal Oak near Paddington in August 2012. This follows the arrival of her sister machine Phyllis at Farringdon in October 2013.

Over in southeast London, TBM Sophia has completed Crossrail’s first tunnel beneath the Thames, arriving at the North Woolwich Portal on 29 January, having started south of the river in Plumstead last August.

TBM Jessica has also completed her tunnelling journey from Pudding Mill Lane and broke through into one of Europe’s largest mined caverns beneath Stepney Green on 3 February.

In addition, tunnelling machine Elizabeth made a spectacular entrance into the new Crossrail station at Whitechapel on 20 January on her journey from Limmo Peninsula to Farringdon. Her sister machine Victoria also broke through into Stepney Green on 30 January.

Crossrail has also finished civil construction of the first of two new Bond Street station ticket halls. The western ticket hall on Davies Street is five storeys underground, with works starting earlier this month on a passenger tunnel to connect the Crossrail ticket hall to the existing underground station.

The milestones continue Crossrail’s impressive construction progress, which recently passed the halfway mark on time and within budget. In 2014 the project will transition from major civil engineering work to station and tunnel fit-out. 30km out of 42km of bored tunnels are now complete.

Andrew Wolstenholme OBE, Crossrail Chief Executive said: “The tunnelling teams deserve tremendous credit for their safe and efficient progress in constructing this major new railway under London. The end is now in sight for Crossrail tunnelling with over 70 per cent of the new rail tunnels now constructed. The next major element of the Crossrail programme will now begin with the fit-out of our tunnels and stations.”

The 150 metre long, 1,000 tonne machines create 6.2m diameter tunnels by installing precast concrete segments in rings to line the tunnel. They are pushed forward by hydraulic rams and positioned using lasers and Global Positioning Systems.

Ada’s 6.9 kilometre journey has been particularly challenging for engineers, successfully navigating a complex web of Tube lines, building foundation piles and infrastructure up to 30 metres beneath central London. This included passing less than a metre above the operational Northern line at Tottenham Court Road.

More than 72,000 pre-cast concrete segments have been used to line the western tunnels and about two million tonnes of earth has been excavated, destined for a new RSPB nature reserve at Wallasea Island, Essex.

Now that Sophia’s journey has finished, her sister Mary will shortly be launched from the Woolwich box to complete the final section of tunnelling on Crossrail’s southeast section. With the arrival of TBM Jessica at Stepney, an eighth tunnelling machine, Ellie, will commence her journey from Pudding Mill Lane to Stepney later this month.

TBM Jessica will be taken to Limmo Peninsula for reassembly where she will construct the new Crossrail tunnels between Limmo and Victoria Dock Portal.

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For further information contact the Crossrail Press Office on 020 3229 9552 or email [email protected]

Notes to Editor

Crossrail’s unprecedented fortnight of milestones:



20 January 2014

TBM Elizabeth breaks through into Whitechapel Crossrail station.

24 January 2014

TBM Ada completes her journey from Royal Oak to Farringdon. The western tunnels are now structurally complete.

29 January 2014

TBM Sophia arrives at North Woolwich portal, completing her journey from Plumstead.

30 January 2014

TBM Victoria breaks into Stepney Green cavern.

3 February 2014

TBM Jessica breaks into Stepney Green cavern, completing her journey from Pudding Mill Lane. 

Eight tunnel boring machines (TBMs) will construct ten different tunnels to collectively deliver 42 kilometres of new train tunnels under London. A gang of 20 people work in the tunnel on each shift to keep each machine operating.

Tunnel Boring Machine Ada is named after Ada Lovelace, who was one of the first computer programmers while Phyllis is named after Phyllis Pearsall who created the London A-Z. Elizabeth and Victoria are named after Queen Elizabeth II and Queen Victoria while Sophia is named after the wife of Marc Isambard Brunel who built the first tunnel under the Thames. TBM Jessica is named after Olympic champion Jessica Ennis-Hill CBE. An eighth TBM, Ellie, named after Paralympic gold medalist Ellie Simmonds OBE will be launched this month.

Phyllis started tunnelling from Royal Oak in May 2012 and finished at Farringdon in October 2013 while sister machine Ada started in August 2012 and finished in January 2014.

Elizabeth and Victoria’s subterranean journeys under east London began at Limmo Peninsula near Canning Town at the end of 2012 and will finish at Farringdon later this year. At 8.3km, this is Crossrail’s longest tunnel drive.

Crossrail’s western tunnels were constructed by contractor Bam Ferrovial Kier (BFK). Ada’s 130 metre long trailer system will be removed from the tunnel via the Fisher Street shaft at Holborn.

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

About Crossrail

The total funding envelope available to deliver Crossrail is £14.8bn. The Crossrail route will pass through 38 stations and runs for more than 100km 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 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.

Twitter: @crossrail