Just back from a very interesting lecture at The Building Centre in central London, hosted by David Anderson, the Engineering Director of Crossrail.

After wandering round the upstairs exhibition on subterranean London with a coffee – we were herded downstairs for the lecture. It was a packed room, and they had all three slide-show screens working. Note to other venues, if the room is large, please set up duplicate screens for the slide-show, it really does make a difference.

After a brief intro, Mr Anderson detailed the inevitability of the Crossrail project and went into some details about the history and reason for the railway before launching into the most interesting bit of the lecture, which was to discuss the engineering aspect of the central tunnels and the plans for some of the stations.

Most of the statistics he showed are already published in various documents, but a few may be worth repeating.

The project should increase public transport capacity along the axis of the railway by 10% – and lead to a massive 45% reduction in “crowding” on the tube.

Main works start in 2010, with the first Tunnel Boring Machine (TBM) starting work in mid 2011.

The TBMs will start at Paddington and out towards the East (Whitechappel?) respectively and head into the center towards Farringdon station. Now something interesting, the reason for the TBMs terminating at Farringdon was explained as they have to do a lot of digging in the area as it lies right on a fault line in the geology and at that specific point the London Clay is replaced with a layer known as the “Lambeth Group”, and it is much easier to avoid tunneling with a TBM at that spot.

Each of the central area stations will have two entrance/exits, one at each end of the platform – so there will in fact be four entrances to the Crossrail running between Bond St. and Tottenham Court Road. The Liverpool St station will have a second exit linking with Moorgate station.

There is a lot of thought going into the stations themselves, and an interesting development is that there will be minimal ticket sales points, as it is expected that the vast majority of users will have Oyster cards by the time the line is open to the public.

The tunnels themselves are larger than tube tunnels, to allow for overland trains – but will be smaller than the recently completed Eurostar tunnels which lead to St Pancras International station. There will be a sidewalk running along the entire length of the tunnels for emergency access – and under the path will lie all the air extraction systems to cool the tunnels down.

We then had some question and answer sessions – which as usual elicited some good (and dire) questions about the project.

The second “question” came from an activist – I forgot to note which organization – but it was quite clear from the speech she read out that she was very much against the project and worried about old WW2 bombs in the East End destroying buildings. To be fair, some of the points she raised were interesting and worth responding to – but she droned on and on in a really annoying manner, then spent the rest of the Q&A session interrupting and making derogatory remarks about other answers.

No matter how persuasive your argument, being rude and having an awful presentation manner really does not help your cause.

Your correspondent himself asked a question – and I was interested in whether the proximity of some of the Crossrail infrastructure to the existing tube network would allow some sharing of air conditioning kit to reduce the temperature on the tube. Alas, he wasn’t able to give a specific answer to that – and to be fair it probably wasn’t entirely his remit – but it sounds like this is one of the issues which could be raised during the technical planning of the fit-out of the finished tunnel structures.

(There is a lecture next Tuesday evening at the same venue on air conditioning of the tube, but I am alas already booked at a different event)

A final note which was nice to hear – if Crossrail 2 is ever built in the future, the plans theoretically include a station at Tottenham Court Road as well – and the works on CR1 will include some construction of tunnels and access points in the station to permit easy interchange with CR2 if it is ever built.

Forward planning like that is very nice, if annoyingly rare.

Overall, a very interesting lecture, and worth popping into town for. Final note to thank Arup for sponsoring the event.

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