TBM Elizabeth breakthrough at Canary Wharf station

Tom Lawson

The Crossrail project has celebrated its biggest milestone so far as Elizabeth, one of its huge 1,000 tonne tunnelling machines has broken through into the new Canary Wharf station box.

At an event today, Secretary of State for Transport Patrick McLoughlin, Mayor of London Boris Johnson, Crossrail Chief Executive Andrew Wolstenholme and selected guests visited the new Canary Wharf station to view tunnelling machine Elizabeth and the huge progress made on the Crossrail project so far.

Crossrail’s eastern tunnelling machines, named Elizabeth and Victoria, were launched from the Limmo site near Canning Town towards the end of last year to create 8.3km (5.16 miles) of tunnels from east London to Farringdon – Crossrail’s longest tunnel section. A marathon-equivalent 26 mile (42km) section of tunnels beneath central London will be built in total for Crossrail.

Over the past 6 months, both machines have been working round the clock to create the first section of new tunnels beneath the River Lea and east London towards the new Canary Wharf Crossrail station. Tunnelling machine Elizabeth was the first to arrive and has now broken through into the huge Canary Wharf station box 28 metres underground – view the breakthrough moment here (footage strictly embargoed until 10am).

Crossrail Chief Executive Andrew Wolstenholme said: “The Canary Wharf tunnelling breakthrough is our biggest milestone so far and a symbolic moment that shows the scale of the essential new transport links Crossrail is delivering. We are making good progress in building world-class new stations and a marathon of tunnels beneath London with the entire Crossrail project now more than a third complete. We are on track to deliver Europe’s biggest construction project on time and on budget.”

The new Canary Wharf Crossrail station box has been designed and built by Canary Wharf Group who are also delivering a four-storey retail development above the ticket hall and platform levels. The retail development will be topped by a roof top garden, community facility and restaurant semi-covered by a striking Foster-designed timber lattice roof.

Canary Wharf Group Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Sir George Iacobescu said: “We are very proud of the role Canary Wharf Group played delivering the Canary Wharf Crossrail station well ahead of schedule, ready for the tunnel boring machines to breakthrough. Four years after construction of Crossrail began here at Canary Wharf, the breakthrough represents a large and tangible step towards a new world-class rail line, set to benefit the whole of London through reduced travel times and much enhanced capacity and resilience.”

Tunnelling machine Elizabeth will now undergo maintenance inside the Canary Wharf station box before resuming tunnelling towards central London. Sister machine Victoria is due to breakthrough into the station in the next few weeks.

Crossrail’s construction commenced on 15 May 2009 with the start of work on Canary Wharf station, with tunnelling work starting in May 2012. The western tunnelling machines Phyllis and Ada have now reached Tottenham Court Road and Bond Street respectively. In south-east London, tunnelling machine Sophia has reached the Woolwich station box with sister machine Mary now underway from Plumstead.

Crossrail is moving into the peak of construction between now and 2015. The entire project is now more than one-third complete and progress made to-date includes:


Source: Crossrail