Crossrail: Moving London Forward

The 43rd annual Paviors’ Lecture was held at Imperial College London on 6 February 2018. This year’s Lecture was on the subject of ‘Crossrail: Moving London Forward’ and was given by Crossrail’s Chairman, Sir Terry Morgan. The Lecture was introduced by MIles Ashley, Master of the Worshipful Company of Paviors, and Professor Nick Buenfeld, Head of Imperial College’s Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, whose organizations sponsor the Lecture along with the Institution of Civil Engineers.​

Crossrail is planned to open at the end of 2018 and will link Reading in the west with Shenfield and Abbey Wood in the east. Through Central London, it will link the main-line stations of Paddington and Liverpool Street. The £15 billion, ten-year construction programme will result in 118km of new track, 42km of tunnels, ten new stations and over 60 new trains. Crossrail will be known at the ‘Elizabeth Line’ and is projected to carry 280 million passengers per year. The new railway is anticipated to contribute significantly to regeneration of different parts of London and to result in over £10 billion of benefits over its lifetime. Crossrail has created 55,000 jobs and over 1,000 apprentices, of whom 30 per cent are female.

Sir Terry talked about some of the construction challenges involved in building large tunnels under a major city such as London, where there is already a large amount of underground infrastructure. Running tunnels are nearly six metres in diameter compared with four metres for the London Underground, and trains will be 15 coaches long compared with eight on the Underground. Eight tunnelling machines have been used, each at a cost of £100 million. These weigh 1,000 tonnes and are 250 metres long. Very precise engineering has been necessary to minimize surface ground movements and because of tight clearances to other underground infrastructure. Disposal of the muck generated by tunnelling has proved to be a major challenge, so a conveyor system has been used to transport the 1.4 million tonnes of spoil to Paddington, where it is transported overland by rail to Northfleet. From there, it is shipped to Wallasea Island and is being used to construct a bird reserve.

Sir Terry’s well-illustrated presentation was pitched at a level to be of interest to the engineers, other professionals and students in the audience. At the end, he fielded a number of thoughtful questions from the audience before being formally thanked by Paviors’ Past Master Tom Barton. ​