The Crossrail Route
The Crossrail Route

Another month, another hot topic bought to you by LIVIC! Last month we talked about Building Information Modelling and this month we are moving in to the world of transport to talk about Crossrail. There are a few major transport projects happening at the moment including High Speed 1, but I thought Crossrail would be the most relevant as we are all in London and could therefore relate to the benefits more.

So what it Crossrail? It’s 118km of track going East to West right through the centre of London, it’s a project that encapsulates 38 stations, 8 new stations and 140 contractors. It has been in the pipe line since 1989, that should give you an idea of how much planning has gone in to this project, never again will you moan about having to plan a 5000 word essay. Crossrail will improve upon existing lines and also connect new ones. The major connections are from Heathrow to The West End, The City and Canary Wharf; but the track will extend to Maidenhead, Abbey Wood and Shenfield. Crossrail had considered going further, but with further journeys you have to consider things such as toilets on trains, seats with tables and that didn’t fit in to their objectives. That is Crossrail at a glance, but there is so much more to this project than that. It comes with so many benefits, not just journey times but also opportunities for contractors; furthermore the project is going to be a catalyst for change, given how many areas it’s going to effect the overall knock on effect of the project will be huge. Crossrail also uses new station design; new train designs and is very innovative in the way it tunnels under the heart of London.

As I mentioned earlier Crossrail will link key parts of London together, most importantly it will provide very fast links to Heathrow, this can only come as a benefit to any businesses located near Crossrail and will help London develop as a business hub. With a Transport project cutting down on journey times is an obvious benefit, right now getting from Heathrow to Liverpool Street takes 70 minutes, with Crossrail it will take 36 minutes, that is pretty impressive. The most important benefit is the scale of the project, it is a 10% increase in rail capacity, the biggest project of its kind since World War II. Also, it will generate 14,000 jobs and help to regenerate areas, but I’ll talk more on that later. It also provides plenty of opportunities for companies to get involved with the project; there are 140 major contractors involved and cranes coming from as far Darlington. The benefits are pretty astounding; it’s a huge project with huge benefits but what about the actual civil engineering behind the project?

As a part of Crossrail there are going to be significant improvements to existing stations and the construction of eight new stations. The designs are going to incorporate natural lighting throughout the stations and have large open spaces; also 31 out of the 38 stations will have step free access. The trains are going to be 200m long and can hold 1500 passengers seated and standing, this is significant because London’s population is only going to keep growing, and if anyone has been on the tube during rush hour you know that the system in reaching capacity. Crossrail is almost built for the future, larger trains and trains that are more frequent with 24 running per hour at peak times. The train designs also take ideas from the new Overground trains with walk through carriages and air conditioned trains, these trains will improve journey quality and that is an important factor to consider when looking at Transport Systems.

Interior of the current London Overground trains
Interior of the current London Overground trains

Tunnelling is another huge part of Crossrail, there is 42km of tunnelling to be done and they have just recently passed the halfway mark; they are using 8 Tunnel Boring Machines; 6 are Earth Balance TBMs used for London clay, gravel and sand. The other two are Mixed Shield TBMs used for waterlogged conditions such as the chalk beneath the river Thames. There are three phases to the TBMs work, the cutting phase is the first, whereby the material is dug out and moved backwards via conveyor belts. Pressure sensors measure the pressures on the face of the TBM, once enough material has been dug out the ring building phase starts. The rings are made from pre-fabricated concrete built above ground and they are fed in to the TBM which places the individual sections of the ring in place, finishing with the keystone. The final phase is the thrusting phase whereby the TBM pushes off and moves ever so slightly forward. The tunnelling between January 2009 and March 2012 produced 1.134 million tonnes of soil, 99% of it has been reused in the creation of the Wallasea Nature Reserve in Essex.

One of the TBMs
One of the TBMs

It is clear to see that Crossrail is a huge project, and you would mad to not know even the basics of the project, it’s going to affect so many people and businesses so it will be a great topic to talk about at interview, especially if the company you are applying to is involved in the project. Crossrail is going to be a catalyst for change as well; you only need to look as far as Wembley Stadium to see how one project can regenerate an entire area, more on that next issue! If you want to try your hand at writing, or even compose a hot topic of your own, perhaps from experience you’ve gained over the summer or a project you are deeply interested in then don’t be afraid to get in contact: pjn11@ic.ac.uk