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New images show Crossrail’s 'London tunnelling marathon' making good progress

By Stuart Buss



  • 26miles of tunnels being built as work continues below London 24 hours a day
  • Over 5½  miles / 9km of tunnels now built
  • Crossrail workers among the weekend’s London Marathon runners

After thousands of runners hit the streets of London this weekend, Crossrail workers are keeping up the pace on their own underground London Marathon with good progress being made on building 26 miles (42km) of tunnels beneath the capital.

The new Crossrail route includes a 26 mile (42km) section of tunnels beneath London. Five huge tunnelling machines are now in operation in west, east and southeast London with over 5½ miles (9km) of tunnels now built.  Tunnelling is also well underway beneath central London station sites using Sprayed Concrete Lining ‘mining’ techniques to create a further 7.5 miles (12km) of platform tunnels and cross passages.

Tunnelling work is continuing around-the-clock beneath the capital and this year’s London Marathon saw thousands of runners pass above and around a number of Crossrail sites including:

  • As runners hit their stride at marathon mile 3 in Woolwich, so too is Crossrail’s tunnelling machine Sophia which has already created half a mile of new tunnel from Plumstead and will reach the Woolwich station box later this Spring
  • By mile 5 as runners reached the North Greenwich area, on the other side of the River Thames refurbishment works are well underway at the 135 year old Connaught Tunnel under the Royal Docks which will be brought back into use for Crossrail
  • As runners begin to break through the pain barrier at miles 18 and 19 of the marathon in Canary Wharf, Crossrail is preparing its own break-through when the two huge eastern tunnelling machines, Elizabeth and Victoria, will break through into Canary Wharf station box
  • As the marathon entered the last few miles from Limehouse to Tower Gateway, runners were a short sprint away from Crossrail’s 34.5 metres deep Stepney Green shaft, one of Europe’s largest underground caverns, where the two eastern tunnelling machines will pass through the shaftlater this year

Good tunnelling progress is also being made elsewhere along the Crossrail route including:

  • In west London, Crossrail’s lead tunnelling machine Phyllis has passed through the new Bond Street station having completed over 2 miles of new tunnels
  • Sister tunnelling machine Ada has also now completed over 3km of tunnels and both western tunnelling machines will complete their journey at Farringdon by the end of the year
  • Sprayed Concrete Lining tunnelling works continuing beneath four central London station sites (Bond Street, Tottenham Court Road, Liverpool Street and Whitechapel) to help create 7.5 miles / 12km of platform tunnels and cross passages
  • Crossrail’s sixth and seventh tunnel boring machines will be launched later this year to begin further tunnelling work in Plumstead and Pudding Mill Lane

Among Crossrail’s 8,000-strong workforce, a number of tunnellers, engineers and project managers competed in this weekend’s London Marathon including:

  • Olivia Perkins, a Shift Engineer at Crossrail’s Tottenham Court Road station site with the BAM Ferrovial Kier (BFK) joint venture contractors. Olivia said: “Running the marathon has been very similar to working on Crossrail - it is hard work, it takes up a lot of time and requires a lot of focus but you know that when you get to the end you'll have been part of something very special. I’ve had a lot of support from my team and it was great to know they were cheering me on from the tunnels on the day.”
  • Lorna Russell, Crossrail’s Environmental Assurance Manager who provides environmental support to Crossrail’s Canary Wharf and Woolwich projects. Lorna said: “Running the marathon was a huge challenge, there were times my body hated me and I wanted to give up.  But just like the Crossrail project, preparation is key and I found inspiration in the most unexpected places. Thank you to my team at Crossrail for all their encouragement and support.”
  • Elsewhere, Engineering Manager Sofia Guerrero and I&M Engineer Brendan Bradley from Crossrail contractors BFK are due to run the Madrid marathon next weekend and five engineers and project managers from contractor itmsoil, who provide instrumentation and monitoring services for Crossrail’s central section, also completed the Paris marathon earlier this month.

Andrew Wolstenholme, Crossrail’s Chief Executive said: "With over 5½ miles of tunnels now completed Crossrail is making good progress in delivering a tunnelling marathon beneath the streets of London. Many congratulations to all the marathon runners who competed this weekend and meanwhile Crossrail will continue to work around-the-clock to create essential new transport links across the capital.”

When Crossrail opens in 2018, it will increase London's rail-based transport network capacity by 10 per cent and dramatically cut journey times across the city. Through the new transport links and significant over-station developments being delivered, Crossrail will support regeneration across the capital with economic forecasts suggesting the project will add up to £42 billion to the UK economy.

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

 About Crossrail:

Crossrail’s construction commenced on 15 May 2009 at Canary Wharf.

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 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.