Experts have navigated around existing tunnels and stations, as well as utility pipelines, across 26 miles of London.
Tunnelling has been completed in the £14.8bn Crossrail scheme – the biggest construction project anywhere in Europe at present.
The plan to build a high-speed rail line connecting Reading in the west to Shenfield and Abbey Wood in the east, via London stations such as Paddington, Tottenham Court Road, Liverpool Street and Canary Wharf, is hugely ambitious.
It aims to bring together all of the capital’s key business locations – Heathrow, the City, the West End and Canary Wharf – on one connected line for the first time.
Crossrail is due to open in 2018 with full services running in 2019.
The trains will be 200 metres long and capable of carrying 1,500 people at a time – twice as many as the existing London Underground rolling stock. It promises to cut journey times and, for London’s long-suffering commuters, improve the quality of their travelling experience.
Standing in front of a giant tunnel boring machine at Farringdon in the capital, David Cameron said Crossrail was “absolutely magnificent”.
Addressing around 150 Crossrail workers deep underground, he said the project made him “dead proud to be your Prime Minister”.
Engineering-wise, it is work of stunning complexity, as it means building new tunnels – some 26 miles of them – around some of the most congested subterranean real estate anywhere on earth.
Experts have had to navigate routes around existing London Underground and Thameslink tunnels and stations, gas and electricity pipelines and water pipes that date back to the Victorian age.
Not to mention the job of building 10 new stations and getting eight 1,000-ton tunnel boring machines up to 40 metres below the ground and shifting more than 4.5 million tons of soil out of central London and into the Essex countryside.
This London clay, which is 55 million years old, is being used to build a new nature reserve for birds and other wildlife.
And, as well as all that existing infrastructure, there are some remarkable archaeological discoveries being made.
According to Terry Morgan, the chairman of Crossrail, the most macabre of these is what appears to be an execution site, dating back to Roman times, under Liverpool Street station.
It’s only by going down one of the tunnels, though, that one can fully appreciate the scale of the work being undertaken.
The tunnelling was completed six years after it began, but now begins the task of lining the tunnels with concrete and flame-retardant material, laying tracks and fitting out the stations.
The tunnels themselves are so high that a double-decker bus could be driven through one of them.
And while the work is noisy and dusty, the workers are doing their jobs in relatively airy and well-lit conditions compared with predecessors working on major tunnelling projects in the past.
As striking is the number of women that appear to be working on Crossrail, surely more than comparable projects in the past, while a stunning number of apprenticeships have been created.
This is something Mr Morgan is passionate about: “We can always make up for any shortage of skills with immigration.
“But I would rather see us equipping workers here with the requisite skills, particularly with all the other major tunnelling projects coming up, whether that is the Thames Tideway, HS2 or something else.”
And one more thing Mr Morgan is keen to impress upon visitors: this is a project that will benefit the entire country.
While Londoners will benefit from improved journey times and more comfortable commutes, getting on for two-thirds of the work involved in constructing Crossrail has been awarded to firms from outside London and the South East, meaning that this is a project that will have benefits everywhere.
Source : Daily Mail