A 1,000 tonne tunnelling machine working on the Crossrail project has broken through into the new Canary Wharf station.
The news represents a major milestone in the project to create an east-west underground line across London, the largest civil engineering project in Europe, and guests including Secretary of State for Transport Patrick McLoughlin and Mayor of London Boris Johnson were invited to a ceremony to celebrate the event.
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 5.16 miles of tunnels from east London to Farringdon – Crossrail’s longest tunnel section.
Tunnelling machine Elizabeth was the first to arrive and has now broken through into the huge Canary Wharf station box 28 metres underground.
Johnson said: “Many thought it would never happen, it seemed almost unimaginable. But now, with the arrival of this gigantic tunnelling machine in the heart of Canary Wharf, grubby with mud and rubble, we can be in no doubt it’s on its way.
“This new railway is adding vital new capacity to our transport network and creating thousands of jobs all over the UK. It is the perfect example of how investment in London benefits the entire country.”
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.
A marathon-equivalent 26 mile section of tunnels beneath central London will be built in total for Crossrail.
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.”
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 and the entire project is now more than one-third complete.
Secretary of State for Transport Patrick McLoughlin said: “Over the past few years Crossrail has let contracts worth more than £6bn, more than half going to small and medium-sized businesses, which are supporting jobs across the country.
“Furthermore, through innovative schemes like the Tunnelling and Underground Construction Academy, Crossrail is providing thousands of people with new skills that will not only help transform the capital’s transport network but will allow this country to compete on a global stage for years to come.”