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Kingsway Tram Tunnel’s role in construction of the Elizabeth line complete​

By Andrew Dempsey

  • Kingsway Tram Tunnel in Holborn used by Crossrail during major construction phase of project
  • Grade II listed site to be returned to condition at start of Crossrail works and handed back to owners London Borough of Camden

The historic Kingsway Tram Tunnel is to be returned back to the London Borough of Camden now that its role in supporting the major construction phase of the Crossrail programme is complete.

Crossrail Limited took over the London Borough of Camden owned section of the Kingsway Tram Tunnel in 2012, as it sat directly above the route of the new Elizabeth line tunnels through Holborn.  Ownership of the Kingsway Tram Tunnel is split between the London Borough of Camden and Westminster City Council.

A unique part of London’s transport history, the Kingsway Tram Tunnel was the first of its kind in the UK when it opened in 1906. The Grade II listed structure on Southampton Row in Holborn connected London’s north and south tram networks, carrying passengers between Holborn to Waterloo Bridge. It was enlarged to accommodate double decker trams in 1929, but was closed in 1952. In 1953, London Transport used the tramway to store 120 buses and coaches in case they were needed for the Coronation. Part of the southern end of the subway opened to road traffic as the Strand Underpass in 1964.

An 8 metre deep, 5 metre wide, shaft was excavated within the tram tunnel to allow engineers to pump a cement-like substance called grout into the ground to correct tiny ground movements that occurred as a 30 metre deep temporary access shaft was built nearby and the 1,000 tonne tunnel boring machines Phyllis and Ada passed below. The site later housed a 40-tonne dry cement silo, and two 60 centimetre wide bore holes were used to pump cement, water, air and electricity to the new railway being built 6 storeys below ground.

Bill Tucker, Crossrail Delivery Director, said: “The Kingsway Tram Tunnel holds a special place in London’s transport heritage. Built to connect one of London’s earliest transport networks, it is fitting that the tunnel helped us build the capital’s newest railway. Now that construction of the Elizabeth line is nearing completion, we are returning the tunnel back to its current owners.”

Work to restore the Kingsway Tram Tunnel and remove visible evidence of its use to support construction of the Elizabeth line is now underway. The grout shaft has been filled, and the concrete floor has been reinstated. The temporary protection for fixture and fittings in the tunnels will be removed, the boreholes filled, and the site tidied and repaired. Finally, the iron tram rails will be put back into their original locations, and the site returned to the London Borough of Camden. 

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

About Crossrail

The route will pass through 41 stations from Reading and Heathrow in the west, through new twin-bore 21 km tunnels to Shenfield and Abbey Wood in the east. The Transport for London (TfL) run railway will be named the Elizabeth line when services through central London open in December 2018. The Crossrail project is being delivered by Crossrail Limited, a wholly owned subsidiary of TfL, and is jointly sponsored by the Department for Transport and TfL.