Year:2017 - 19

Duration:10 years


Country: London, UK

What did this project achieve?

Create a new railway from west to east to meet London’s growing transport needs

Crossrail – also known as the Elizabeth line - is a new railway through London. With the capital’s population set to reach 10 million by 2030 it’s designed to improve a public transport system already struggling to cope.

The railway is the biggest infrastructure project in Europe. The 118km line includes 42km of track in new tunnels under London. It will connect the city of Reading in Berkshire and Heathrow airport in west London, to Abbey Wood in south London and Shenfield in Essex.

Linking 40 stations – 10 of them new – the line will provide the biggest increase in central London’s train capacity ever delivered by a single engineering project. It’s expected to see 200 million passenger journeys every year.

The central section was due to open in 2018, but this has been delayed until 2022. 

Difference the Elizabeth line is going to make

The Elizabeth line is set to increase London’s rail capacity by 10%, reduce journey times across the capital and put an additional 1.5m people within 45 minutes of London.

This increased capacity should also help support economic growth and encourage urban regeneration along the whole length of the line.

How the tunnels were dug and infrastructure placed

The project dug out 42km of new tunnels under London using eight 1,000 tonnes boring machines. This part of the work took 3 years and used over 200,000 concrete segments to create the new 7m diameter tunnels.

The route for the tunnels was a major challenge for project engineers. They had to weave their way through existing underground railways, cable ducts and gas pipes. In some areas, they were less than half a metre from working tube lines.

Engineers also had to be very careful not to disturb the foundations of historical buildings along the planned route.

The project created 14km of new station concourses, underground caverns and shafts using sprayed concrete lining. Some of these are the largest excavated spaces ever built.

The new railway is designed to be future-proof. The stations are large with platforms 250m long, and there is capacity for more space so that trains can be extended when it’s needed.


Everyone involved in Crossrail can be justifiably proud of the railway we leave behind.

Sir Terry Morgan

Chairman of Crossrail

Fascinating facts

Soil dug up during tunnelling for the project has helped create new wildlife reserves across the UK. As an example, Wallasea Island in Essex has received 3 million tonnes of earth from excavations.

There have been more than 10,000 archaeological finds during Crossrail work – including human remains with the first DNA identification of the plague.

Crossrail has commissioned new artworks for stations along the railway. They include an ambitious mile-long installation by the side of track as it runs through Newham in east London.

People who made it happen

  • Chairman: Sir Terry Morgan
  • CEO: Andrew Wolstenholme OBE
  • Technical director: Chris Sexton
  • Chief engineer: Chris Binns

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