The £15 billion Crossrail project today marked its first major milestone as a giant boring machine broke through at the new station in Canary Wharf.
The 1,000 tonne machine has bored its way westwards from Canning Town at the rate of a mile a month before emerging into the station “box” which will house the ticket hall and platforms.
The station – one of nine purpose-built for Crossrail – has been sunk almost 30m into the waters of Canary Wharf’s North Dock and will comprise four storeys.
Working in tandem with a second machine, the boring apparatus will drill beyond to Stepney Green station.
It will meet in the middle with the western section – currently as far as Tottenham Court Road – at Farringdon, marking the end of tunnelling work in late 2014.
The boring operation is now in full swing with six machines working around-the-clock beneath the capital to create 26 miles of tunnels in the central section.
The breakthrough at Canary Wharf is a symbolic moment that marks a third of the way to completion of the project when the 118km Maidenhead-to-Shenfield service begins in 2018, adding 10 per cent to London’s rail capacity and slashing journey times.
Speaking at the same site where Crossrail construction started almost exactly four years ago, politicians hailed the scheme as proof of the economic benefits of infrastructure just weeks before chancellor George Osborne reveals the extent of spending cuts to government departments.
It is claimed that Crossrail will bring an extra 1.5 million people to within 45 minutes of central London and will link the city’s key employment, leisure and business districts – Heathrow, the West End, the City and Docklands.
The Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, said: “Many thought it would never happen, it seemed almost unimaginable. But now, with the arrival of this gigantic tunnelling machine in the heart of Canary Wharf, grubby with mud and rubble, we can be in no doubt it’s on its way. This new railway is adding vital new capacity to our transport network and creating thousands of jobs all over the UK. It is the perfect example of how investment in London benefits the entire country.”
As Europe’s largest construction project, Crossrail currently employs 8,000 workers at 40 construction sites.
Crossrail’s boast of benefiting the British economy will next year be put to its sternest test with Bombardier, Hitachi, CAF and Siemens vying for the £1 billion contract for 60 trains – one of the biggest single orders of rolling stock in UK rail history.
Although none of the bidders are UK-owned, there will be pressure to select the firm that offers the biggest boost to the UK economy. At peak, 24 trains per hour will operate along the tunnelled section, each carrying a maximum 1,500 passengers – 50 per cent more capacity than a Tube train.
A rail operator will be chosen next year and Crossrail will gradually introduce new rolling stock, starting in May 2017 on the Great East Main Line out of Liverpool Street station.