Web
Analytics
Report - - Elizabeth Line (Crossrail), London - 2015-18 | Underground Sites | 28DaysLater.co.uk

Report - Elizabeth Line (Crossrail), London - 2015-18


Adders

living in a cold world
Regular User
I thought I already had this posted up on here… But turns out I didn’t so throwing it up now. Better late than never I guess, just like Crossrail really. Service on the central tunnelled section started today so here you go!



Crossrail is the south-east's new east to west railway, spanning 73 miles from Reading and Heathrow Airport in the west, to Shenfield and Abbey Wood in the east. It runs through central London as a 6.2m diameter 13 mile twin-bored tunnel, and has become a worldwide engineering marvel as it's construction is liken to weaving a shoelace through a pile of spaghetti.



The central part of the network features 8 subterranean stations, which is what our focus was set on. The system also includes numerous portals, ventilation and escape shafts, and crossover passages, all being built and fitted out ready to go live in December 2018.


Plumstead Portal - November 2015

Construction started in 2009, 4 years after the Crossrail Bill was put to parliament, with the Crossrail Act being passed in 2008. The origins of a Crossrail project stemmed from proposals put forward in 1974, but the plans changed and eventually led to the current route being finalised, with a projected cost of £15.9 billion.


Plumstead Portal - November 2015

The project has caused a stir worldwide with it being one of the largest engineering schemes currently happening in Europe. It has already spawned a mini series of BBC documentaries, and I'm hoping will be followed by some sweet Megastructures style release from National Geographic or similar.


Abbey Wood to Woolwich - December 2014

I first poked my head into Woolwich station back in December 2014, making a few short visits to push further along the tunnels. We always sketched ourselves out after hearing noises reverberating along from elsewhere though, so retreated back and out. Trip after trip we'd get further, just to be confronted with the same round concrete tunnel.


Woolwich Station - January 2016

It ended up with us moving on to other projects and pushing Crossrail to the back of our minds. It was to be a ridiculous start to 2015, and before we knew it found ourselves balls-deep elsewhere in the city. The gas holder affair came and went, with the stadium game also coming and going before we found ourselves once more pottering around Crossrail sites from the outside.


Woolwich Station - January 2016


Woolwich to Custom House - November 2015

However we were always confronted with 24/7 workers. Despite the Tunnel Boring Machines being long removed and on their way to the scrap yard, all we could do is run into workers. It started becoming a collaborative effort between Slayaaa, Anorak, Monkey, OliT and myself, but earlier visits had been compliments of Gabe who was living close to one of the work sites, providing daily updates on progress. I think all in I visited with pretty much everyone; Suboffender, Monkey, Manal, Lenston, Slayaaa, Space Invader, Obscurity, The Raw, Extreme Ironing, Maniac, Bukowski, Anorak, Idavoll and likely more.


North Woolwich Portal - November 2015

Teasing photos from Crossrail's own Instagram feed, and update videos on their Youtube channel had us foaming at the mouth, and we wanted to get ourselves further into the system to witness every oddity and experience every nook and cranny that had been chiselled out under the city.


Connaught Tunnel - May 2015

It was tough to work out how to present these images and write-up. They were taken over the space of 3 years, and there was no order as to how they were taken. Constant working meant that it was pot-luck if we'd be able to get in to our chosen location. On the flip-side however, this allowed us to see different parts of the network at varying levels of completion. It's being marketed as our new "east to west railway", so that's how the photos will go.


Connaught Tunnel - May 2015

It was interesting to see the changes in construction as the tunnels leap in and out of the ground on the south-easterly spur of the railway. After initially going underground at Plumstead it pops above ground at North Woolwich before shortly disappearing into the 1878 Connaught Tunnel. It then comes above ground for Custom House station, intersecting with the Docklands Light Railway before it goes underground once more at the Victoria Dock portal.


Victoria Dock Portal - January 2016

The tunnels then snake around towards Limmo Peninsula, where these historic images of the TBMs being lowered underground were taken. The dual-shaft site is fairly unassuming, and is constantly being used as a materials shaft for works along the tunnel. Our first visit to the site involved us dodging gantry crane movements as we snuck through the site, heading down the loud haki staircase and heading down the tunnels until we could hear workers talking around the bend from us. We decided to head back and out, narrowly missing another group of workers as they passed less than 5 metres in front of us at the top of the shaft.


Limmo Peninsula Ventilation Shaft - October 2015

After the Limmo Peninsula shafts the tunnels then run straight across to Canary Wharf station. This station was built separately from the rest of the system, dug out and constructed by Canary Wharf Contractors opposed to the other sites which have predominantly been built by Laing O'Rourke, BFK, BBMV, DSJV and CSJV. The station forms a part of the recently opened "Crossrail Place" retail development, and was effectively built underwater by constructing a dry dock to dig down.


Custom House to Canary Wharf - October 2015

The CW contractors didn't hang around, and was the first station to have complete platforms and station structure. Now it lies there silently, sitting and waiting for the tunnel fit out to come to them. The escalators are unwrapped, lifts are powered up and retail spaces are ready to fill. The upper floors have already opened up, with the sky garden providing us with a bit of entertainment a few months before it opened.


Canary Wharf Station - December 2015

They obviously don't want those tunnel working types fucking up their platforms, as they'd bolted a heavy duty curtain across the length of the platforms, an attempt at keeping the dust from soiling the other station fixings.


Canary Wharf Station - December 2015

To be honest the platforms themselves look cheap and featureless. I'm hoping they're still yet to add some life to the place, as it currently just looks like a cheap blend of knock-off marble and stainless steel panelling. The tunnels are plain and sterile, and you'd think the architects of a 21st century railway would go all out in making the stations a cut above the others. With Canary Wharf it seems they ran out of ideas with an inflatable roof, then realised they'd spent too much and ordered some panelling from bland.com.


Canary Wharf Station - February 2015

From here the tunnel heads down towards Stepney Green where the central core line of Crossrail splits off. The Canary Wharf branch leads out to Abbey Wood, with the Stratford branch heading off further into east London. The underground section starts at Pudding Mill Lane, where they moved and rebuilt the DLR station a few meters away to allow construction of Crossrail to fit in.


Pudding Mill Lane Portal - December 2015

It starts off as an extended concrete box tunnel before transforming into the circular tunnel we've come to know. This then snakes around and runs down to meet up with the Canary Wharf branch at Stepney Green.


Stratford to Whitechapel - December 2015

On it's route however it includes a ventilation shaft at Eleanor Street, where a small facility will be kitted out with fan machinery to aid the air flow in the tunnel. The stations will all feature full height platform doors, meaning extra heat prevention is being utilised to ensure the upkeep and longevity of the signalling equipment and switch gear in the tunnels.


Eleanor Street Ventilation Shaft - December 2015

It's a snip around 5km between Stratford and Whitechapel stations, one of the longest gaps between stations with around 4km of it being underground. The walk is pretty tedious as the concrete just seems to go on and on, with little in the way of features to break it up along the way. The Eleanor Street shaft consists of one large crossover to allow workers to swap between the tunnels, and 3 smaller gaps for ventilation conduits.


Eleanor Street Ventilation Shaft - December 2015

Further down the tunnel is another opening which will allow passengers to vacate the tunnels in an emergency through the Mile End Park escape shaft. This features a lift and staircase available to both tunnels, and exits atop via a small building next to the leisure centre above.


Mile End Park Escape Shaft - December 2015


Mile End Park Escape Shaft - December 2015

The Stepney Green cavern is a monstrous excavation that allows the Crossrail trains to split off and head towards either Shenfield or Abbey Wood. 2 tracks then become 4, but it's hard to portray just how large this space is. The cavern is 50m long, 13.4m wide and 16.6m high at its widest point and involved the removal of 7500m3 of earth (and that's just half of it).


Stepney Green crossover (Eastbound tunnel) - December 2015

It'd been a big target of ours for a while, but the odds were stacked against us getting in smoothly because of a concrete batching plant they'd constructed on the surface. This meant the site was ALWAYS busy, with plenty of workers each hour of the day. When we did finally make it underneath we were there less than 5 minutes before workers entered the cavern we were in. Somehow they didn't notice 4 of us tripping over a heap of scaffold as we ran away.


Stepney Green crossover (Westbound) December 2015



Stepney Green crossover (Westbound) December 2016



Stepney Green crossover (Westbound tunnel) December 2015

This now takes us into the core central section that starts with Whitechapel station. Trains running between here and Paddington will be more regular than trains running to the extremities in each direction.


Whitechapel Station - December 2015


Whitechapel Station - December 2016

Whitechapel really astounded me at just how incomplete it was. It was December 2015 when we first made it down, but the tunnels looked like they'd just been bored. Rough edges, pile of rocks lying around and mostly under a few inches of water. It had a really raw feel to it, which was different from what we'd seen so far, and reaches from what we expected considering how busy the surface sites had been from the go. 12 months later and it was a completely different story, the station was a lot cleaner looking, with platforms constructed and door framework in place.


Whitechapel Station - December 2015

To the west of Whitechapel station is another crossover passage to allow the manoeuvre of trains from one line to another. The eastern approach to it sits next to what we dubbed the "Whitechapel swamp". A dark green and yellow mass of water about shin deep spilled across the tunnel, with an 18 inch wide strip of concrete running down the centre.


Whitechapel Crossover - December 2015


Whitechapel Crossover - December 2016

Heading west in 2015 along the eastbound running tunnel brought us to some concrete-levelling works. They looked to be preparing the tunnel ahead for laying the concrete bed that the track will be set on. A large roller gantry sits over the round void, with a host of other machinery and plant scattered through the section of tunnel.


Whitechapel to Liverpool Street - December 2015

The nearest available concrete is from the batching plant above Liverpool Street station at Finsbury Circus. Which gets fed down the shaft into mixing trucks that'll transport it along the tunnel to the pour site.


Liverpool Street Station - December 2015


Liverpool Street Station - December 2016

As the tunnels head west they got less and less finished, finally leading to Liverpool Street station where the platform tunnels are once again just a rough spray-creted surface. No progress had been made on the platform slab yet, with large sections of exposed re-bar still to be sprayed and finished. We again almost ran into workers on two occasions at Liverpool Street. Both times they were working on cherry pickers on the crown of the tunnel, either surveying or reinforcing, it was hard to tell as we were leaving. The second time we managed to work our way passed them and into the tunnel, miraculously remaining unseen.


Liverpool Street Station (Finsbury Circus shaft) - December 2015

But what it lacks in platforms it massively makes up for with machinery and industrial prowess. It features two impressive shafts at Finsbury Circus and Moorgate, a host of trucks, diggers and concrete cannons, as well as the GTA Maschinensysteme Uphill Excavator 10700 that's currently digging a 60m long escalator tunnel at a 30 degree angle up to the new ticket hall above.


Liverpool Street Station (Uphill Excavator) - December 2015


Liverpool Street Station - December 2015

It's only a short walk between Liverpool Street and Farringdon stations, but it was the last section of tunnel to be bored, with the TBM breaking through into Farringdon in May 2015. This is evident by the lack of concrete built up, the tunnels are as round as the day they were bored and reminiscent of the Woolwich tunnels we were walking through a year before.


Liverpool Street to Farringdon - December 2015

The maddest thing about Farringdon station was that the main concourse and connecting passages were still adorned with water proofing layers ahead of re-bar fitting and concreting. I'd not seen anything so big and orange before in my life, so that's a life box ticked.


Farringdon Station - December 2015

The platforms themselves were looking fairly good so far. The eastbound platform slab had been laid, whereas the westbound was still looking a lot barer. Although considering how recently the tunnelling had been completed it's odd how the station progress appeared much more advanced than Liverpool Street and Whitechapel.


Farringdon Station - December 2016

A revisit in 2017 led us down to near-complete platforms, with the wall cladding all installed, and even the roundels and directional signs were in-situ. I still don't think too much of the platform designs, but I guess it's unfair to assume the final outcome until the flooring and other fixtures are added.


Farringdon Station - December 2017

Online research led us to a Facebook group page of tunnel workers past and present, with heaps of images from Crossrail and other projects around the world. It's more than just a skilled trade, with some of the guys on there having decades of tunnels under their belt, and seeing "unofficial" photographs of the lads working on the TBMs and banter that goes on between them adds an added level of depth to the system. These polished concrete rings that we've spent hours walking through are the result of an unfathomable amount of planning and engineering.


Farringdon Station - December 2015


Farringdon Station - December 2017


Farringdon Station - December 2017

To build 13 miles of 7.2 meter diameter tunnel under a city already saturated with a subterranean network of railways, sewers and other tunnels is pretty ridiculous. In many places it comes within a metre of tube lines, sewers and even Mail Rail. Being able to witness the construction of an entire railway is something I never thought I'd be able to do, and doubt will get the chance to do again. Unless I'm still doing this shit in 15 years when Crossrail 2 drops.


Farringdon Station - December 2015

One of the surrealist places of the system to be, for me, was the Fisher Street crossover. Back in March 2014, Rene Tkacik was killed by a falling piece of soft concrete, and being in the area this accident happened feels pretty weird. Crossrail have boasted about their impressive safety record for the project, which seems a tad callous for the family to hear, especially as it could have been prevented. Fellow workmen were reported as describing it like "a death in the family".


Fisher Street Crossover - November 2015


Fisher Street Crossover - December 2017

Like Whitechapel, this crossover allows trains to switch lines if necessary, and the intervention shaft next to it is to allow access for workers as well as for ventilation. The tunnels west from Farringdon were in a much more completed state, and looked ready to be fitted out with track as soon as they make it this far. Work is being carried out 24/7 and I'm really not sure how we managed to get away with popping into it bit by bit. Security onsite is not to be taken lightly, with cameras in the tunnels, on platforms and in portals, as well as the aforementioned workers seemingly everywhere. And that's after you've managed to get into sites in some of the busiest areas of London.


Fisher Street Ventilation Shaft - November 2015

Tottenham Court Road was one of the main stations I wanted to see. I'd sat on top of Centre Point too many times looking down into the site in awe, wanting a slice. I'd circled the worksites many a time, and thought I'd found a nice clown's pocket into the site. I never ended up testing it though as Slayaaa found an even easier way that proved to be much more fruitful.


Tottenham Court Road Station - November 2015


Tottenham Court Road Station - December 2017


Tottenham Court Road Station - December 2017


Tottenham Court Road Station - December 2017

The station changed so much in the space of a matter of weeks. The first time I was down there I peered over the top of the platform from the trackbed to see a group of workers no more than 10 metres away. The next visit there were workers in the western ticket hall shaft, and my last visit the entire platform had been boarded up, I presume to protect the platforms from tunnel work. Although that seems odd as the platforms were no where near completion. The worksite boundaries within the system are nuts. Each station can have 4 different companies working on it, doing different works in various places. Sometimes there's a wooden hoarding differentiating between them, in others just a chain with a sign hung on it advising of the site change.


Tottenham Court Road to Bond Street - December 2015

As you head towards Bond Street station you initially end up underneath the shaft at Hanover Square. The exposed pilings mark where groundwork has been done, and they've dug out a massive void between the platforms. I can only imagine this is for some form of ventilation plant and concourse passages from the ticket hall above, as the space is huge.


Bond Street Station (Hanover Square shaft) - December 2015

The platforms are pretty much identical to Tottenham Court Road, although it was far too early to see what will change upon completion. The large ducting-style rig above the edge is for the platform doors, to prevent passengers from falling in front of trains and us running off down the tunnels willy nilly.


Bond Street Station - December 2015

More spray concrete changeover passages can be found between the platforms, with a connecting passage leading up to what will be the new Davies Street ticket hall. There's evidence of what look to be lift shafts at the extremes of the platforms too, as all of the Crossrail stations within London are inclusive of step free access.


Bond Street Station - December 2015

In the two years since our previous visit, Bond Street station had taken on a lot more shape. It wasn't as completed as the likes of TCR or Farringdon, and there were no roundels to pose next to. It was a bit disappointing though as Bond street was where they held the press event announcing the 'Elizabeth Line' name, with HM Queen opening a curtain to unveil the name. We were hoping for a bit more finesse in the internal fit out but these central stations all kinda look the same.


Bond Street Station - December 2017

Paddington station sits 2km to the west of Bond Street, and after already walking the underground section between Pudding Mill Lane and Stepney Green knew how distances felt so much longer in the tunnels. This journey was no exception, and we winded around underneath west London heading towards Paddington twice before we were able to get a worker-free shot at the place. The first time Monkey, Oli and I attempted it we ended up getting caught between workers each side of us, meaning we had no choice but to sit and wait them out. Echoes of dog barks sent the fear down us, only to emerge a while later to a quiet autumn night's air. Paranoiaaaa.


Bond Street to Paddington - December 2015

Paddington had proved to be quite elusive, which was annoying as the topside work site always appeared to be dead. We'd stand outside the fence and listen in, trying to catch a wiff of orange in the breeze. It never helped though, and we had no choice but to go for it, only to bail before it was too late. Our second attempt again ended prematurely after spotting workers ahead of us, leaving us with a 2km trek back to Bond Street.


Paddington Station - December 2015

The station itself was pretty unassuming back in 2015. The ironwork had started to be erected for the platform concrete core, but the nice oddity were the 5 columns they've put in the centre of the station. On the ticket hall level they have inverted-flare tops, which looked more impressive on the video update about them to be honest, but still good to see. Also in the middle of the platform is the connecting shaft that will link up to the new Bakerloo Line passenger tunnel, allowing customers to easily transfer between the Bakerloo platforms and Crossrail.


Paddington Station - December 2015

Paddington is similar to Canary Wharf in construction. A box was dug out of the ground that is then covered over. The TBMs penetrated either side of the station box to allow the tracks to run through, and the platforms will be an island-type design in the centre. However Paddington isn't being treated to a new station building, with the ticket hall being underneath Eastbourne Terrace, with escalators and lifts providing access to the station below.


Paddington Station - December 2015

We then disappear back into the tunnels for the final time as we head towards Acton Main Line station. This section of tunnel runs for around 600m before emerging at the Royal Oak portal next to the Hammersmith & City and Circle line tracks.


Paddington to Acton Mainline - December 2015


Royal Oak Portal

Lastly we took a visit out to the Plumstead Rail Head where all of the worker trains are stored. This behemoth below is the 400m long concrete train that enters the tunnels everyday with enough fresh concrete to pour 300m into the tunnel bed.


Plumstead Railhead

It's quite an emotional experience when you come to the end of a project. You don't realise how much time you've spent looking at plans, watching webcams and chatting about it until you're not doing it any more. Countless nights bedding down a couple hours before having to get up for work, contemplating if it's even worth sleeping at all. Waking up and having those initial moments of trying to differentiate between reality or whether it was a dream.



Thanks for reading! See you down Crossrail 2 ;)
 

Mikeymutt

28DL Regular User
Regular User
That's just awesome. I appreciate the amount of time and work gone into this. That excavator looks a beast of a machine. Has the photo limit been extended as well on reports.
 

Bikin Glynn

28DL Regular User
Regular User
That is some awesome dedication well done. U need to get back & take pics of all the opened stations now!

Im curious did u actually get caught at all?
 

TheVicar

Loyal to the Drain
Regular User
Outstanding report and photos, really enjoyed reading that.
I can appreciate the considerable combined time spent on all those exciting visits over the years. :thumb
 

Bikin Glynn

28DL Regular User
Regular User
Thankfully not! A few close calls with workers, and one instance of having to make a dash for the fence at Bond Street with a confused security guard trying to figure out whether to give chase or not.
great work, I wonder what the consequence would actually be? I know there is the 2k fine etc but anyone actually had anything like that?
 

Calamity Jane

i see beauty in the unloved, places & things
Regular User
:<3 Stunning, committed, effort, and years of pulling this altogether, huge Kudos! So much to love here. Grand report, really comprehensive and a labour of love. NW imho.
 

Adders

living in a cold world
Regular User
great work, I wonder what the consequence would actually be? I know there is the 2k fine etc but anyone actually had anything like that?
Nah back then it hadn't officially been handed over to the rail operator, so wouldn't have classed as railway trespass. Especially when there wasn't even any track down there, but glad we didn't have to find out.
 

Seffy

SWC | Bally up!
Regular User
Holy hell yes! What an appropriate time to post this and all!
 

Top