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Olympic champions join Crossrail’s marathon tunnelling race

Olympic champions join Crossrail’s marathon tunnelling race

Site Manager Bob Brown inspects Jessica ahead of her tunnelling launch at Pudding Mill Lane in the shadow of Olympic Park

  • 'Jessica' starts tunnelling near Olympic Park and will be followed this winter by 'Ellie' in a 1.7 mile tunnelling sprint.
  • Names for Crossrail's final two tunnel boring machines (TBM) suggested by Marion Richardson Primary School in Stepney.

Crossrail’s seventh tunnel boring machine, Jessica, will start a new race from Stratford today.

Named after Olympic champion Jessica Ennis-Hill CBE, Jessica, the 1,000 tonne tunnel boring machine will start building a new 1.7 mile (2.7 km) Crossrail tunnel from Pudding Mill Lane, near the Olympic Park, to Stepney Green.

She will be followed by sister machine Ellie, named after Paralympic gold medallist Ellie Simmonds OBE, to build a second tunnel.

Students from Marion Richardson Primary School inStepney suggested the names ‘Jessica’ and ‘Ellie’ for the final two of eight Crossrail tunnelling machines undertaking a marathon effort to build 26 miles (42 km) of new rail tunnels under London.

Jessica joins six other Crossrail tunnelling machines working under London which are fast approaching the half way mark in the tunnelling marathon with 11 miles (18 km) of tunnels completed. The new tunnels will connect east and west London and 37 stations from Maidenhead and Heathrow in the west, to Shenfield and Abbey Wood in the east.

Transport Minister Stephen Hammond said: "The Government is investing record amounts in the country’s infrastructure because we recognise its importance in driving the economy forward and pushing the UK ahead in the global race. The launch of the last pair of tunnel boring machines in the shadow of the Olympic Stadium marks another significant milestone in the Crossrail project, as we approach the halfway stage in our tunnelling marathon."

Crossrail Programme Director Andy Mitchell said: "Crossrail is making good progress with more than 11 miles of tunnel now built. We're delighted that our final two tunnelling machines, which start their race at Strateford, have been named after two Olympic heroines and will deliver their own tunnelling marathon under London. The Olympics legacy has transformed Stratford and east London, and Crossrail too will transform the way Londoners travel, and support regneration across the capital."

School students in the Stratford area were asked to suggest names for the new tunnelling machines. Crossrail workers including those working on Jessica and Ellie then voted on a shortlist of names put forward by the students.

The naming of TBMs after women is a long-held tunnelling tradition and the names of Crossrail’s first six TBMs were each inspired by British heritage and history.

Tunnelling machines Ada and Phyllis were named after early computer scientist Ada Lovelace and Phyllis Pearsall who created the London A-Z. They are constructing the tunnel between Royal Oak and Farringdon.

Elizabeth and Victoria, in east London, were named after Queen Victoria and Queen Elizabeth II and are building the Canning Town to Farringdon tunnel.

Mary and Sophia, in southeast London, were named after the wives of famous railway engineers Isambard Kingdom Brunel and Marc Isambard Brunel. They are constructing the tunnel under the Thames between Plumstead and North Woolwich.

Once Jessica has completed her tunnel drive from Pudding Mill Lane to Stepney, she will then be partially dismantled and taken to the Limmo shaft at Canning Town to construct the final two Crossrail tunnels between Limmo and Victoria Dock Portal. This is the shortest of the Crossrail tunnels with each measuring 900 metres.

More than 8,000 people are currently working directly on Crossrail, which is Europe’s largest construction project, with another 5,000 full time equivalent jobs in its supply chain.

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.

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Notes to editors

The tunnelling machines are equivalent to 14 London buses end to end with enough force to lift over 2,900 London taxis.

Crossrail’s eastern tunnels contractor is Dragados Sisk Joint Venture, which is constructing the 8.3km twin tunnel between Limmo Peninsula and Farringdon, the 2.7km twin tunnel from Pudding Mill Lane to Stepney Green and 900 metre twin tunnel from Limmo Peninsula to Victoria Dock.

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 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.