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Going underground to see Crossrail progress

The acess shaft at Canning Town. The acess shaft at Canning Town.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014
9:56 AM

While it may seem like building work on Crossrail has been going on for years – five, to be exact – there is still much more to be done before it opens in 2019.

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Canary Wharf Station in the process of being built.Canary Wharf Station in the process of being built.

The train network, set to connect Shenfield to Maidenhead, has just reached the halfway stage of its construction and to celebrate, I was invited on a tour to see just how much progress had been made.

On arrival at the Limmo Peninsula site, next to Canning Town station, the giant cranes and machinery made me realise just how big the scale of the project was.

After being kitted out in bright orange clothes and a hard hat, I descended 30 metres down a shaft.

This allowed access to two tunnels created by tunnel boring machines Elizabeth and Victoria, named after the Queens.

How often will it run through Newham?

Crossrail will run 12 trains an hour in peak times between Shenfield and central London, and an additional six trains per hour between Gidea Park and London Liverpool Street, using the existing line currently operated by Greater Anglia.

It will also run up to 12 peak time trains an hour from Abbey Wood to central London, calling at a new station which is being built at Custom House.

The machines work in pairs, digging through 130 metres of clay each week towards Farringdon station, which they are expected to reach by autumn.

In addition to burrowing 21km of tunnels under London, 10 new stations are being constructed along the route.

One of these is at Canary Wharf, which is due to open next year.

Boarding a locomotive used to transport construction workers along the line, I travelled the 15 minute journey on a rather rickety train.

What Canary Wharf station will look like when completedWhat Canary Wharf station will look like when completed

I was assured that both the train and the track were only temporary and that when Crossrail opened, the journey would be much smoother and quicker than the one I was currently experiencing.

Alighting at Canary Wharf station, I found myself standing on the 256m long island platform.

Above me was the ticket hall, which is connected to the platform by nine escalators, laid out in groups of three along the platform.

Project manager Michael Bryant explained that there will be glass around the bottom of a lift shaft enabling those in the ticket hall to see the trains coming in.

Crossrail journey times from Stratford

Canary Wharf: 9 minutes

Farringdon: 11 minutes

Paddington: 18 minutes

Abbey Wood: 20 minutes

Heathrow terminals 1-3: 42 minutes

Heathrow terminal 4: 48 minutes

Maidenhead: 58 minutes

“This is the flagship station,” he said. “We had to build it in the dock because of space and while it’s not connected to the DLR or Jubilee Line stations it’s easy to walk between them all.”

I travelled up one of the eight escalators linking the ticket hall to street level before heading even higher through the shopping levels to the top floor.

The retail part of the station will open in May 2015 and tenants already confirmed include a cinema, a sports bar and a Mexican restaurant.

The top floor will feature a community garden with stunning views over London.

Although travelling to Canary Wharf on the line is still some years away, Newham residents will be able to benefit when Crossrail takes over the London Liverpool Street to Shenfield line.

“We’ll be taking over franchises from next year, running them with the existing trains until 2017,” explained Simon Bennett, Crossrail’s community relations manager.

“Then we’ll introduce the new Crossrail trains on those lines before the underground section opens in December 2018.

“The whole route will be operational from December 2019.”

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