Exploring Crossrail: London's Groundbreaking Transportation Initiative

Posted on 28 July 2022

In the coming weeks, we will closely examine the progress of the UK's most significant infrastructure projects. Our focus will encompass a comprehensive analysis of Crossrail, Hinkley Point C, Tideway, Battersea Powerstation redevelopment, Stonehenge Tunnel, HS2, Leeds Flood Alleviation Scheme, and Birmingham's Big City Plan. To commence our exploration, we will delve into Crossrail, a groundbreaking transportation initiative that represents London's most substantial addition in decades. The project aims to enhance connectivity between central London and the adjoining counties to the east.

What is Crossrail?

Recognised as a major tunnelling project, Crossrail has undertaken the excavation of over 42km of new rail tunnels, marking a significant addition to London's transportation infrastructure. This transformative initiative seamlessly blends underground and overground travel, catering to the needs of over 200 million passengers annually. Approved in 2007, construction commenced in 2009, but like many other projects, it faced disruptions caused by the Covid-19 pandemic, resulting in several months of delays.

The forthcoming Elizabeth Line, hailed as the most substantial enhancement to London's transport network in generations, promises to revolutionise life and ravel in the city and the Southeast region. Spanning both overground and underground domains, the line features 41 stations, including 10 major new stations designed with convenient access in mind, offering "No Steps" accessibility from street to platform. The introduction of these new stations signifies a modernisation effort, allowing passengers to enjoy brighter and more spacious ticket halls, improved lifts and footbridges for enhanced accessibility, advanced technology, and safety measures such as full-height platform screens that separate platforms from tracks.

Serving a vast number of commuters, the line connects central London with neighbouring counties, including Essex, Buckinghamshire, and Berkshire. Upon full operation, the 100km line is projected to generate a staggering £1 billion per year for Transport for London starting from 2024/2025. Additionally, it will augment central London's rail capacity by 10%, potentially reducing dependence on cars by introducing new journey options, shorter travel times, and supporting urban regeneration efforts.

During its peak construction phase, Crossrail stood as Europe's largest infrastructure undertaking and, upon completion, will boast the most advanced railway system on the continent. Seamlessly integrated with London's existing transport network, it offers convenient interchanges with the Tube, DLR, London Overground, and National Rail services. A fleet of 70 purpose-built Class 345 trains, measuring 200 meters in length, has been meticulously designed to transition effortlessly between three different signalling systems during journeys.

The implementation of this pioneering railway project has not only created numerous job opportunities but also contributed significantly to the UK's economy, amounting to billions of pounds. With a strong focus on regeneration, an impressive 96% of contracts have been awarded to UK-based companies, with 62% of these contracts going to businesses located outside of London. Furthermore, 62% of the Tier 1 contractors involved in the project represent small to medium-sized enterprises. With an estimated lifespan of 120 years, Crossrail will continue to generate new opportunities beyond its completion, including maintenance and operation contracts, job creation, housing development, and a notable stride towards advancing the transportation landscape of the UK.


History of Crossrail

2005 - Crossrail Bill submitted.

2008 - Received Royal Assent in 2008.

2011 - Main Construction started in 2011 with eight tunnel boring machines starting their 42km journey whilst works started on stations, platform tunnels, shafts, and portals.

2015 - Tunnel boring was completed, and the installation of railway systems such as track, power and signalling began once the tunnels were ready.

2016 - Officially named the Elizabeth line, marked by a visit by Her Majesty the Queen in February 2016.

2018 - Trains were introduced into the new tunnels for testing.

2021 - Construction completed for the integrated stations and handover to TFL completed. Trials ran to ensure all trains ran to a timetable, entering the final phase of testing.

2022 - Celebrations began on the 17th of May at Paddington Station with the central section of the new line opening between Paddington and Abbey Wood on the 24th of May 2022.


Map showing all 42 new stations for the new Elizabeth Line from Crossrail in London


Where is Crossrail currently?

After encountering delays and cost overruns, the new Crossrail line has successfully concluded its initial phase, launching its services on May 24, 2022. Presently, the line operates as three separate railways, accommodating 12 trains per hour. Passengers are required to transfer to Paddington station to access services heading into the central section of the route. Similarly, travellers from the eastern regions must make a transfer at Liverpool Street station.


What’s next?

In the upcoming phase of the Crossrail project, the primary focus will be on connecting the central lines, eliminating the need for passengers to transfer at Paddington and Liverpool Street stations. This crucial development aims to streamline the travel experience and provide a more seamless journey for commuters and travellers.

During this phase, the Crossrail line will extend its services to include connections from Reading and Heathrow. The introduction of these additional routes will significantly enhance the accessibility and reach of the Crossrail network. It will contribute to a substantial increase in the frequency of trains during peak hours, with the number rising from 12 to an impressive 22 trains per hour.

The Numbers

  • As it stands, the project's final costs are expected to be around the £18.9bn mark, £4bn over budget due to the four-year delay

  • From end to end, the Elizabeth Line is over 100km long and just over 60 miles long

  • 41 new stations in total, with ten new accessible stations at Paddington, Bond Street, Tottenham Court Road, Farringdon, Liverpool Street, Whitechapel, Canary Wharf, Custom House, Woolwich and Abbey Wood.

  • Since its start in 2009, over 15,000 men and women have worked on the project

  • 120 million working hours have been completed

  • 1,000 Apprenticeships have been delivered by the programme

  • Eight tunnel boring machines ran from 2012 to 2015 boring 42km of new rail tunnels.

  • Each tunnelling machine was a 1,000-tonne, 150 meters long underground factory with 20-person‘ tunnel gangs’ working in shifts around the clock.

  • 3.4 million tonnes of material was excavated with over 99% of this material being reused.​

Share this article