Crossrail: Passion deep below west London


Two of the 26 miles worth of tunnel have been bored

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The mining engineers on the multi-billion pound Crossrail project are certainly a passionate lot.

One told me that being involved in Crossrail was like his own Hoover Dam (the huge US dam built during the Great Depression) in terms of scale and personal achievement.

Many of these mining engineers have already worked on projects like the Channel Tunnel and the Jubilee line extension so they're not easily impressed.

Tunnelling is well under way on Crossrail, but for most Londoners the only thing they will have noticed are blue hoardings along its route.

I've been trying to get inside the tunnels for a while and on Thursday I was given the first rare opportunity to have a look and film in the tunnels deep under west London.

Below your feet

Compared to the power tunnels in Park Royal these tunnels are much larger.

So far 3km have been bored. There have been a few issues - for example, a hopper that carries soil at Paddington collapsed - but Crossrail workers now think they are making good progress.

I visited the tunnel boring machine TBM2 - called Ada - and to get to see her you have to take a 10-minute train journey in the tunnel.

Built in Germany, the machine is like something from a Ridley Scott sci-fi movie.

Boring machine The 26 miles of tunnels will be completed by 2018

It bores out the clay and behind that the concrete slabs are slotted in. It works round the clock and only stops for maintenance.

If it stops it increases the risk of movement in the tunnel.

It's now under south Paddington and soon it will be under Hyde Park and so far the tunnel has only moved 1cm.

On average the team does 100m a week but it has done 200m in some parts.

On board there are toilets and a kitchen and it is hot, noisy work. Eventually there will be eight of these boring under London for the next three years.

The project will cost £15bn and it is being paid for by government, Transport for London (TfL), fare-payers and business rates. It will be finished in 2018.

This is just the beginning; while it may not be high profile at the moment, it is happening and it's happening below your feet.

Tom Edwards Article written by Tom Edwards Tom Edwards Transport correspondent, London

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  • rate this

    Comment number 3.

    I think a six week delay on a project of this scale is minute and can easily be made up. We should be proud of these sort of construction projects and not constantly looking at ways of criticising them.

  • rate this

    Comment number 2.

    The PERT software I wrote in the 1970s, was used on many large projects in the last forty years. so I've seen this passion in large projects before and a lot of smaller ones too.
    Don't worry about the lateness, as modern management methods, some of which were pioneered by the software I wrote, will bring the project back on time and budget.

    Just look at the Olympic Park. Was that late?

  • rate this

    Comment number 1.

    No mention of the fact that parts of the project are 6 weeks behind schedule because of problems and staff who should be working on the next elements have been laid off!



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