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Crossrail: Small Tunnels, Great Projects

Crossrail is a new railway link that will dramatically cut travelling times within London, and is currently Europe’s largest infrastructure project with a total price tag of £14.8 billion.




On completion, some 42 km of new tunnels will be excavated under the city, increasing the capital’s rail transport capacity by 10%, considerably reducing travel time and easing congestion on the network.


The Cross-London railway project, due to open in phases from 2018 as the Elizabeth line, will link Reading and Heathrow in the west to Shenfield and Abbey Wood in the east. The vast infrastructure project was apportioned into different parcels for which construction companies were invited to bid in a huge procurement process.


BBMV, a joint venture of four leading construction companies, won the bid for parcels C510 (Whitechapel and Liverpool Street station tunnels) and C512 (Whitechapel Main Station works).


Ed Morgan, Plant Manager for BBMV, says the Crossrail project will be one of the largest underground structures ever built in the UK.


“Crossrail is a new addition to the infrastructure of London and, once operational, the servicewill provide much-needed capacity”, Morgan said.


The major construction works for C510 began in April 2011 and includes the construction of the Crossrail Whitechapel and Liverpool Street Station Sprayed Concrete Lining (SCL) tunnels.


Because of its compact footprint ideal for shotcreting in small tunnel section with difficult access, BBVM is working with Putzmeister’s mechanized shotcrete equipment Wetkret 3 onsite.




“Putzmeister offered the only machine that could cope with the steep inclines encountered during the construction of several inclined escalator and travellator tunnels”, said Morgan. “The machine has been customized for us by Putzmeister to further enhance its productivity and operator ease-of-use”.


Contract C510, worth around £250 million, also includes the construction of shafts and adits, platform tunnels, Tunnel Boring Machine (TBM) reception chambers and launch chambers, cross passages, access passages, escalator barrels, ventilation ducts and a link passage from Crossrail Liverpool Street Station to the London Underground Northern Line Moorgate Station platforms.


The works also include the construction of four compensation grouting sites in the vicinity of Liverpool Street Station and one compensation grouting shaft in the vicinity of Whitechapel Station.


“The machine is compact, user-friendly and, more importantly for me as the equipment manager, easy for my team to work on” , according to Morgan.


The Plant Manager is satisfied with the equipment’s performance, and says he would consider further purchases in future.




“The need for repairs and adjustments have been few and it performs well in arduous conditions in a tight workspace. The downtime for the machine is less than 2% which means I will likely buy this type of equipment from this manufacturer on future projects. A real investment”.


Operator safety is paramount on the Crossrail project, and there are stringent requirements in place to comply with Health and Safety. Morgan said this is another category in which the equipment scored well.


“Crossrail Limited (and its resident contractors) have very onerous specifications for machinery that goes underground; the Wetkret machine met (and often exceeded) the regulations in force”.



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