Crossrail recently passed the half-way mark in its construction phase, and while I have mostly written about the stations and secondary works, yesterday was a chance to travel through an actual rail tunnel.

There is an access point next to Canning Town tube station, where two massively wide and deep shafts have been dug down into the ground. Despite the size of the two shafts, only one of them is permanent, and will be used for ventilation. The other will be filled back in again later as it is only needed to help with the tunnelling works.

Our trip along the tunnel would be by a small narrow-gauge workers train heading west along the eastbound tunnel towards the half billion pound station being built at Canary Wharf.

On to the photos!

The Permanent Shaft


You can just about make out the two railway tunnels at the bottom of the shaft. The scaffolding between them running to the surface contains two conveyor belts that takes the muck out of the tunnels from the tunnel boring machines still drilling away a few miles away.

Muck Conveyors


The muck — as they call the soil and clay that is dug out — is taken over to barges waiting in the Thames next to the building site, and there taken to an island in the Thames Estuary, where the soil is being used by the RSPB to recreate a wildlife reserve.

Looking Up


At the Bottom of the Shaft


Here the two running tunnels are clearly visible. This is the location that the tunnel boring machines launched on their journey westwards towards Farringdon Station in the City.

Looking Up Again


Close up of the Eastbound tunnel


The rail tracks are temporary and used just by the builders to travel down into the tunnels or carry equipment. When the tunnels are finished, the fitting out works will remove them, and lay a slightly higher flat surface to carry the Crossrail tracks.

The Westbound Tunnel


The site has changed a bit since I was last here back in July 2012.

Looking back to the other shaft


You can see the light from the secondary shaft, which will later be filled back in again. The tunnels haven’t been dug yet, but next year they will drive a short tunnel towards the Custom House station, and then link up with the Victorian Connaught Tunnel.

Inside the loco


Not easy taking photos through a mud splattered window, but it is a building site, so what would you expect?

Riding Through the Tunnel!


A grumbling growling train ride along bumpy rail tracks and in the gloom pockets of light showed up with service works still being carried out in the slick grey concrete tunnels.

Trying to Take Photos


In was rather dark in the carriage. No buffet service, no wi-fi, plastic seats, not even any lighting. Future passengers on Crossrail trains can expect more luxuries.

People Working in the Tunnel


As the tunnel boring machine leaves behind a solid wall of concrete, side tunnels have to be cut out later. Half way between the two exit points, a short side tunnel is being dug out to link the two railway lines. Useful space for electrical equipment, and an escape route should something unpleasant happen in the future.

Did I say it was Dark?


Glimpses of the Tunnel


At Canary Wharf


About 15 minutes later, we arrived at Canary Wharf Station. In the future passengers will do that trip in about 2 minutes. We are still in the tunnel side, and the side wall here protects the station box from the tunnel workers.

The Crossrail Tunnel


A look back down the tunnel we had just come through. In the future this will be the direction that Crossrail trains will face when heading eastwards.

The Railtracks at Canary Wharf Station


The square box here being the where the trains will stop at platforms for passengers. The left hand side will be a glass wall with platform edge doors, as used on the Jubilee Line extension.

Canary Wharf Ticket Hall


One floor above the platforms, this will be the vast ticket hall. Crossrail are taking the lower two floors of the station box, with retail on the four floors above, and then a garden on the very top.

We’re Still Very Deep Underground


In fact we are inside an old Victorian dock that was drained, and doubled in depth to allow construction of the station. When finished, the dock will be reflooded and the station box will be surrounded by water on all sides.

The First Working Escalator!


Yes, it works, and yes we rode up Crossrail’s first working escalator. A few details. It’s quite long, and there is a rubber type “doormat area” where people step off, presumably to help prevent slips. The yellow tint is permanent.

The Top of the Station


This will be open to the public, and will be fitted out as a partially covered roof garden. The gaps in the frame will let trees poke their heads out of the top as they grow. Some parts of the station shops and the garden should open to the public around the middle of next year.

The trains will arrive in 2018.


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One comment
  1. Peter says:

    Fantastic pictures and review. Thanks for that. Can’t wait to visit London again this year.

    Peter (The Netherlands)

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