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Crossrail tunnelling in southeast London gets underway

TBM Sophia breaks ground at Plumstead Portal, Jan 2013

Sophia, Crossrail’s fifth tunnelling machine, today began construction of a tunnel under the River Thames for London’s new rail link.

  • Crossrail’s tunnelling machine Sophia gets going as work starts on newest rail tunnel under the Thames

  • Machine specially equipped to deal with chalk and flint ground conditions in southeast London

  • Crossrail will cut journey times to central London by up to 20 minutes for local residents

Sophia, Crossrail’s fifth tunnelling machine, today began her journey from Plumstead to North Woolwich as part of the construction of a tunnel under the River Thames for London’s new rail link.

The 110 metre long machine is scheduled to drill at an average rate of around 100 metres a week, installing precast concrete segments as rings to form the tunnel lining as it advances forwards.

When Crossrail opens, up to 12 trains per hour during the peak will link southeast London and the Royal Docks with Canary Wharf, central London and beyond – and will enable local residents to get to and from London’s key employment areas much more quickly and easily.

Passengers in southeast London will benefit from some of Crossrail’s most significant time savings. With Crossrail, the journey from Abbey Wood to Bond Street will be around 20 minutes quicker and passengers travelling to Heathrow will be able to shave around 40 minutes off their journey.

Sophia is different to the tunnelling machines being used elsewhere on Crossrail. Known as a ‘slurry’ machine, she is specially equipped to deal with the chalk, flint and wet ground conditions that she will encounter in southeast London.

As part of the tunnelling process, the excavated soils will be pumped out as liquid slurry to a special site treatment plant at Plumstead. The slurry will be separated into sand, gravel, water and chalk. The chalk will come out in ‘cakes’ or slabs of filtered chalk particles.

Stephen Hammond, Crossrail Minister said: “The launch of Sophia, Crossrail’s fifth tunnelling machine, demonstrates the great progress the project is making, stimulating the economy, generating thousands of jobs during construction and delivering huge transport improvements to people living in southeast London”

Andrew Wolstenholme, Crossrail’s Chief Executive said: “The start of tunnelling in southeast London marks another milestone for Crossrail, a project that will transform public transport in and around the capital. The benefits for southeast London are huge - for the first time people living between Abbey Wood and the Royal Docks will be able to travel right through the centre of the capital without having to change trains, bringing Canary Wharf, the West End and Heathrow closer than ever before.”

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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