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London’s newest ‘eastender’ begins tunnelling journey

Eastern tunnels TBMs ready to launch, 29 Nov 2012

  • Elizabeth becomes third tunnelling machine underway as work starts on Crossrail’s longest tunnel section

  • Boats and barges to be used to deliver tunnel segments and remove excavated material from east London site

Crossrail moved a significant step forward today as London’s newest ‘eastender’ – 1,000 tonne tunnelling machine Elizabeth – began the 8.3km tunnelling journey to create the eastern section of the new rail line between Docklands and central London.

Elizabeth and sister tunnelling machine Victoria were lowered 40 metres underground into a shaft at Limmo Peninsula, next to Canning Town station last month. With the machines in place, Elizabeth has now begun the journey to create 8.3km (5.16 miles) of eastern tunnels from Docklands to Farringdon – Crossrail’s longest tunnel section. Victoria will also begin work on the eastern tunnels later this year.

As the 150 metre long tunnelling machines advance forwards, precast concrete segments are put in place to form concrete rings to line the tunnels. Elizabeth has now placed the first of 110,000 concrete segments that will line the eastern tunnels.

All of the concrete segments are being manufactured at a new facility in Chatham in Kent where up to 50 new jobs have been created. The concrete segments are then delivered by barge from Chatham to the east London site, helping prevent thousands of lorry journeys through Kent and the capital. Ships will also being used to transport excavated material from the eastern tunnelling work to Wallasea Island in Essex where it be used to create a new 1,500 acre RSPB nature reserve.

The eastern section of Crossrail will see Elizabeth and Victoria tunnel beneath the River Lea towards the new station box at Canary Wharf where work is already underway to prepare for their arrival and to allow the machines to easily enter the station next year. Both tunnelling machines will then receive maintenance while in the large station box, before continuing their journeys towards Whitechapel, Liverpool Street and Farringdon. Elizabeth and Victoria are due to arrive at Farringdon in late 2014.

Crossrail Minister Stephen Hammond said: "The start of tunnelling in east London marks another major milestone in the construction of Crossrail. It yet again shows the engineering expertise involved in delivering this huge infrastructure project for the Capital, set to boost the economy and generate thousands of new jobs. I look forward to following the progress of Elizabeth and Victoria, the two tunnel boring machines, on their journey towards Farringdon."

Andrew Wolstenholme, Crossrail’s Chief Executive said: “With the start of work on Crossrail’s eastern tunnels we are seeing the biggest construction project in Europe now tunnelling on both sides of the capital. This is a significant step towards the huge transport improvements Crossrail will deliver, creating much needed additional capacity and faster new links with London’s major employment areas. By using boats and barges to deliver and remove materials from these tunnels, this will keep thousands of lorries off the road in east London.”

A range of contractors and more than 500 workers are currently involved in the delivery of Crossrail’s eastern section, continuing the important benefits the construction project is delivering to the economy in London and the UK.

Across the whole Crossrail project, eight tunnelling machines will construct 21 kilometres (13 miles) of twin tunnels under London. The Crossrail route will pass through 37 stations and run 118 km (73 miles) from Maidenhead and Heathrow in the west, to Shenfield and Abbey Wood in the east.


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