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Crossrail Project

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CROSSRAIL PROJECT Europe’s largest infrastructure project bringing London up to speed from East to West

Q&A with Will Parkes, External Affairs Director, Crossrail


Could you begin by introducing the Crossrail Project and giving some insight into its history to date highlighting key events over the years? Crossrail is Europe’s largest infrastructure project. It stretches for over 100 kilometres from Reading and Heathrow Airport in the west through the centre of the city and out to Essex and southeast London. It will add 10% to the capital’s rail capacity and bring an extra 1.5 million people within 45 minutes commute of central London.

Crossrail’s construction officially began in May 2009, when the first pile was driven into the dock at Canary Wharf. It had been talked about and planned for many years prior to this; however it wasn’t until Parliament passed legislation in 2008 that it really moved forward with some certainty. We are creating 26 miles of twinbored tunnels under central London.

The start of this major tunnelling was an important milestone , begnning for the western tunnels in May 2012. The eastern tunnelling began in November 2012. Our rail tunnels are now 83% finished – we will complete these next year, when the remaining tunnel boring machines reach Farringdon station, in central London.

In terms of the overall programme, we passed the halfway mark in January of this year. We are nearing the completion of the major civil engineering work. The challenge now is to transition to the installation of railway systems, and finishing off our 10 new stations, an altogether different and no less challenging task. Crossrail’s construction will support the equivalent of 55,000 full time jobs right around the UK. Three out of five businesses currently winning work on the project are based outside London and over half are small and mediumsize companies (SMEs).


Crossrail is the largest ongoing construction project in Europe with many component parts, can you highlight the elements that make up this construction programme? Put very simply, the main elements of Crossrail include tunnelling, the construction of 10 new stations, and the works on the surface section of Crossrail. There is also the implementation of all of the railway systems, including signalling, tracks and platform edge doors and of course procurement of the trains themselves.

The western tunnels run from Royal Oak, west of Paddington, through to Farringdon station. The contractor for this work is Bam Ferrovial Kier Joint Venture. The Eastern tunnels run from Victoria Dock through to Farringdon and from Stratford through to Farringdon and the contractor for these is Dragados Sisk Joint Venture. The Thames tunnels run under the river at Woolwich and the contractor for these is Hochtief Murphy Joint Venture. We are have also refurbished the Connaught Tunnel, a Victorian era structure beneath the Royal Docks in East London. The surface section is being undertaken by Network Rail, on behalf of Crossrail. Each of Crossrail’s 10 new stations are significant projects in their own right, especially considering they need

to link in with all of the other major civil engineering work, all beneath and around one of the world’s most dynamic cities. Crossrail is much more than just a railway. As an example, we are planning to develop three million square feet of property above 12 construction sites, making us one of London’s biggest property developers in the next five years.

We have also built a new Tunnel and Underground Construction Academy, to up-skill a new generation of people capable of working in tunnels. We intend for the expertise gained from Crossrail to be passed on to future infrastructure projects.

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Considering the continuous growth in population in the city of London how significant is this project to the future of the city? London needs Crossrail if it is to continue to compete globally. The population of London will increase by one million over the next ten years and London needs additional transport capacity.

In addition to the 10% rail capacity increase, Crossrail will add resilience and cut travel times. It will help to transform the cityscape too, with over two million square feet of new and improved areas outside stations – equivalent to 19 Leicester Squares. But this isn’t a project that is just benefitting London. Crossrail is creating jobs and business

opportunities right around the UK. Three in five businesses winning work are based outside London, including the largest contract, to build Crossrail trains at Bombardier in Derby. We have 10,000 people currently working directly on the project. Crossrail is supporting some 55,000 job opportunities throughout the UK; among those are some 350 apprentices that have worked on Crossrail. Much of the project’s cost is funded by London. Over 60% of Crossrail’s £14.8bn costs are funded by Londoners and London business through a Business Rates Supplement and direct contributions from other key beneficiaries.


One thing the team has done excellently over the lifetime of this project is maintaining great communication with its stakeholders, could you identify how the team has made the people of London take ownership of this project? Managing stakeholders can be the making or breaking of a project. On a project like Crossrail, the sheer volume of stakeholders and the fact that construction runs over a long period of time means you have to engage with the communities we are working in and manage concerns seriously. Addressing these and maintaining support for the project is a key element. We know people are interested in the project so have made sites available for local visits so people can see behind the hoardings and gain an understanding of the works that are taking place; and see a glimpse of what the finished railway will look like. We’ve got a hotline anyone can call 24/7, a website and we’ve established a range of community forums along the route.

Our contractors are obliged to minimise the impact on the local community and to invest in community improvements. They are also required to retain their own community relations staff, who work alongside those from Crossrail.

We have encouraged a culture of

respecting the needs of our local communities well. This starts at the very top; our chairman and chief executive are both very passionate about our community and stakeholder relations.

Could you provide some insight into the expected advantages this project will present to both residences and businesses that operate in London? Crossrail will reduce journey times, increase rail transport capacity by 10 per cent and bring an extra 1.5 million people to within 45 minutes of central London.

It will deliver £42 billion of economic benefits to the UK and allow London to continue to grow and compete with the world’s city powerhouses.

Crossrail will link London’s key employment and business districts more effectively than ever before – the West End, the City and Canary Wharf.

Crossrail trains will be around 200 metres long and carry 1,500 passengers and 24 trains per hour will run during the peak through central London after Crossrail opens. Crossrail will boost regeneration around the stations along its route, improving accessibility, bringing shorter journey times, and giving employers better access to a larger, more highly skilled labour market.

It has been projected that Crossrail will support the delivery of over 57,000 new homes close to stations along the route.


A project of this magnitude will not only reduce traffic from within but subsequently increase traffic from outside the city. Which supporting projects and or strategies that will help accommodate the imminent growth? Crossrail is part of a wider investment project in London and the UK’s transport infrastructure. Projects such as Thameslink, the Northern Line extension and Tube upgrades will, alongside Crossrail, help to cater for London’s growth.

Research shows that Crossrail through a tender process encourages local supplier and contractor’s participation and strategic partnerships in its operations. Can you describe this process and positive result experienced in using this strategy? Ninety-seven percent of the businesses in our supply chain are based in the UK. Firms of all shapes and sizes from Falmouth to Fife are winning work on the project - three in five businesses in our supply chain are based outside London and over half are SMEs. We frequently travel around the country to host workshops and seminars encouraging businesses to bid for Crossrail contracts. Crossrail Limited was set up specifically to design and construct the railway. We are answerable to our sponsors, Transport for London

and Department of Transport. We are also working with Network Rail which is delivering the surface sections of the route on our behalf.

Data collection and analysis is a significant part of good management generally in business, how significant is data collection to cross rail and what is its approach in sharing information with it stakeholders? Crossrail aims to build two railways; one physical and one digital. To create the ‘digital railway’ we collate data from our contractors into a set of linked databases.

When Crossrail is finished, we will be able to hand over these databases to the operator which will generate significant long-term savings in the cost and maintenance of the railway. Using a very simple example, it will be much easier for someone to change a light fitting in a new Crossrail station because they will have the information at their fingertips; they can identify what kind of light fitting is required, where the light fitting is located, how best to replace it and more. Crossrail has broken the mould in UK construction by being the first organisation to develop a strategy and process for leading and managing innovation in mega projects. Crossrail has launched an innovation programme designed to not only develop new


products and processes to take the construction industry forward but to pass over those concepts for further development by mega infrastructure projects.

Crossrail’s innovation programme is creating a new way of working, bringing together companies across the sectors to work together to generate new ideas, share lessons learned and track innovations from concept, to testing to use in the construction site. Funded by Crossrail and its contractors, £350,000 has been provided to date. This will help further develop, test and pilot more than 20 innovation concepts.

Projects of this size usually present unique challenges at various stages which subsequently lead to exciting new discoveries in operational approach, could you identify any unique features in term of operational approach? Crossrail’s approach has been mostly dictated by our values; inspiration, respect, safety, collaboration and integrity. These are more than just words – we have endeavoured to embed them in all our operations. Safety in particular is of crucial importance to us. Nothing is too important that it cannot be done safely.


Subsequently could you highlight any archaeological discoveries identified over the course of the project? The construction of Crossrail through the heart of London is resulting in one of the most extensive archaeological programmes ever undertaken in the UK. Archaeological investigations have been carried out at each of our central stations. The most notable finds include prehistoric animal bones, Roman remains, a Black Death plague pit, human remains from the infamous ‘Bedlam’ psychiatric hospital and remnants of Britain’s industrial past.

The Crossrail project prides itself on its sustainability and social initiatives. Could you provide some initiatives you champion in the area green construction? We had two objectives from the outset: build the railway sustainably and allow for it to be operated sustainably. One of our most notable sustainability initiatives is contributing to the new wildlife sanctuary at Wallasea Island in Essex. This will see much of the four million plus tonnes of excavated material taken from Crossrail tunnels to Wallasea by train and barge, where it is creating an attractive wetland environment for birds. We have a broad range of sustainability initiatives in addition

to Wallasea. For example, the new Crossrail trains will be the most energy efficient of their type. They will be relatively lightweight, and built with an emphasis on energy efficiency and intelligent on-train energy management systems. They will also be aerodynamic to help reduce drag and will feature regenerative braking which allows energy to be returned to the electricity grid. These measures are expected to give up to a 20 per cent reduction in energy costs.

Finally when is the project set to go live and what should the world expect? Trains will run through the central section of tracks by the end of 2018, with the entire route complete by the end of 2019. Our trains will be 200 metres long and able to carry 1500 people - creating a more comfortable passenger experience.


Oliver Moy Publisher

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Crossrail London  

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