Crossrail: Taking a look at the Uk’s largest infrastructure projects and where they are now

Posted on 28 July 2022

Over the next few weeks, we’ll be looking into the UK’s most significant infrastructure projects and seeing where they’re at currently. We’ll be taking a deep dive look into Crossrail, Hinkley Point C, Tideway, Battersea Powerstation redevelopment, Stonehenge Tunnel, HS2, Leeds Flood Alleviation Scheme and Birmingham’s Big City Plan. The first project we’ll be looking at is Crossrail, London’s biggest transport addition in a generation, that hopes to provide better connectivity between central London and neighbouring counties to the east.

What is Crossrail?

Best known as a major tunnelling project with over 42km of new rail tunnels being excavated, the new route will blend underground travel with overground travel and support the travel of over 200 million passengers per year. Crossrail was initially approved in 2007 with construction beginning in 2009 and along with everyone else, was disrupted by the Covid-19 Pandemic which caused delays by several months. Penned as being the most significant addition to London’s transport network in generations, the new Elizabeth line will transform life and travel in London and the Southeast.


Both overground and underground, the new line has 41 stations including 10 major new stations that allow for easy access and ‘No Steps’ to be easily accessible from street to platform. New stations mean modernisation, and passengers can look forward to brighter and bigger ticket halls, new lifts and footbridges to improve accessibility, better and more reliable technology and safety precautions in the form of full-height platform screens separating the platform from the track.


Serving over 200 million passengers each year, the line connects central London to its neighbouring counties of Essex, Buckinghamshire, and Berkshire. Once fully operational, the 100km line is estimated to bring in a staggering £1 Billion per year from 2024/2025 for Transport for London (TFL) and will increase central London’s rail capacity by 10%. This increase will hopefully lead to a less car dependant by providing new journey options, cutting journey times, and supporting regeneration.


At the height of its construction, Crossrail was the largest infrastructure project in Europe and when completed will be the most advanced railway in Europe. Fully integrated with London’s existing transport network, and has interchanges with the Tube, DLR, London overground and National Rail services. A fleet of 70 purpose-built 200-metre-long Class 345 trains have been built with the ability to switch seamlessly between three signalling systems whilst en route.


The new railway has provided thousands of new jobs and has boosted the UK’s economy by billions of pounds. With a focus on regeneration, 96% of contracts have been awarded to companies based within the UK, 62% outside of London and 62% of Tier 1 contractors being small to medium-sized businesses. With a 120-year lifespan, the opportunities won’t die upon completion and we’ll be looking at new opportunities being formed through maintenance and operation contracts, jobs, new housing and a step closer to bringing the UK up to speed with transportation.


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?

Following delays and cost overruns, the new line has just completed its first phase with services commencing on 24th May 2022. There are currently 12 trains per hour with the line operating as three separate railways with passengers needing to change at Paddington for services into the central section of the route, and customers travelling from the east needing to change at Liverpool Street.


What’s next?

The next phase focuses on connecting the central lines as early as possible so that passengers needn’t change from Paddington and Liverpool Street respectively. Services from Reading and Heathrow will begin during this phase and will extend the number of trains from 12 to 22 per hour during peak hours.


Completion is scheduled by May 2023, when a full timetable will be in place, allowing seamless travel across the entire line, with 24 trains per hour at peak between Paddington and Whitechapel.


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.​

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