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London Capacity Enhancement Rail Project also known as Crossrail involves laying of new 118km rail track from Maidenhead and Heathrow in the west to Shenfield and Abbey Wood in the east.

Crossrail train mock

Crossrail train mock (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The project will allow an additional 1.5 million people to travel between London’s key business districts in just 45 minutes.

Crossrail is one of the world’s largest and most complex projects. The 16 billion (RM79.07 billion) project was originally scheduled for a 2017 opening, but has been delayed until 2018 following a spending review.

Typical current journey times from North Kent to Central London are around an hour. Crossrail will cut these by around a third.

The journey to Heathrow, currently over 90 minutes, will be cut by up to a quarter.

Crossrail has been promoted by Cross London Rail Links, a joint venture company formed by Transport for London (TfL) and the Strategic Rail Authority (SRA).

Crossrail will make new developments in the City, Isle of Dogs/Canary Wharf and the Thames Gateway accessible from other areas.

Set to be Europe’s largest civil engineering project, major works began in 2010, with the first service trains expected to run in 2018, effectively adding 10% to the capacity of London’s public transport. The expectation is that Crossrail will become a wholly owned TfL subsidiary.

The project is expected to boost the UK economy. It will boost regeneration of some of London’s deprived inner city areas, relieve congestion on London Underground, and is expected to deliver an economic benefit to London and the UK of up to £1.24 billion (RM6.13 billion) per year.

The Crossrail project has stimulated £250 million (RM1.24 billion) worth of contracts, involving more than 50 companies.

In October 2007, the UK Government secured a funding deal for Crossrail, giving the go-ahead to the construction of the project running between Paddington and Liverpool Street mainline stations.

The route, agreed in principle in summer 2004, would take it through the centre of the city, with trains capable of carrying up to 1,100 people every two and a half minutes.

In the core Central London section, there will be stations at Paddington, Bond Street, Tottenham Court Road, Farringdon, Moorgate / Liverpool Street and Whitechapel, all with interchanges for Underground and commuter ‘heavy rail’ stations.

The heart of the project is the construction of a new 21km (12 mile) tunnelled route across London, including the branch of the eastern end to Shenfield and Abbey Wood.

There are five tunnelled sections, each with an internal diameter of 6 metres (20 ft)[1] (compared with the 3.81 metres (12.5 ft) for the existing deep-tube Victoria line), totalling 21 km in length: a 6.4 km tunnel from Royal Oak to Farringdon; an 8.3 km tunnel from Limmo Peninsula to Farringdon; a 2.7 km tunnel from Pudding Mill Lane to Stepney Green; a 2.6 km tunnel from Plumstead to North Woolwich (Thames tunnel section); and a 0.9 km tunnel from Limmo Peninsula (Royal Docks) to Victoria Dock portal which will re-use the Pudding Mill-Stepney tunnelling machines.

Each section consists of two tunnels 6.2 m in diameter; the twin tunnels are to be excavated at the same time – two TBMs per section.

The tunnel linings will be constructed from concrete sections. Tunnelling is expected to progress at around 100 metres per week[2].

The main tunnelling contracts are valued at around £1.5 billion[3].

Over the coming three years, a fleet of eight 150 metre-long TBMs (working in pairs) will begin several twin tunnels under the city, digging 21km of new subway.

The longest, an 8.3km route, will extend westward from the Limmo Peninsula portal near Canning Town in the East End to meet the Farringdon tunnel.

Crossrail will, for the first time, allow existing suburban east-west rail services to run through central London.

Portals for the main tunnels will be at Royal Oak to the west of Paddington and in the east at Custom House and Pudding Mill Lane.

The project’s twin 6m bores totalling 41km (25.5 miles) will be constructed with tunnel-boring machines designed for the ground conditions and ensuring that ground movement is minimised.

Over 8,500 jobs are envisaged as being needed to create the infrastructure.

Construction will incorporate the latest elements of proven best practice in order to minimise ground-borne noise and vibration.

The Crossrail fleet will comprise purpose-built, energy-efficient, high-performance trains, a twin five-car dual voltage sets using overhead lines and third rail systems; their performance will be capable of delivering a train approximately every two minutes in the Central London area.

Carriage design will facilitate rapid entry and exit, and interiors will be climate controlled.

Crossrail will be accessible to mobility impaired passengers.

The signalling and communications strategy of Crossrail is still in the early stages of development, although the European Rail Traffic Management System (ERTMS) will be installed. Signalling will need compatibility with the traffic on lines being integrated into the scheme. The deep tunnel section will call for a high level of security, with the capability of emergency services access and for evacuation of large numbers.

Source : Railway Technology, Construction Week and Wired UK

(this article written for 1BINA.my)

[1] “Crossrail Tunnel Boring Machines”. Crossrail.

[2] “Crossrail information paper: D8 – Tunnel construction methodology”. Crossrail. 20 November 2007

and Thomas, Tris (22 September 2011). “Herrenknecht supply final Crossrail TBMs”. Tunneling Journal.

[3] “Crossrail awards remaining tunnelling contracts as Crossrail’s momentum becomes unstoppable” (Press release). Crossrail. 7 April 2011.