Crossrail’s first completed tunnel has been unveiled marking a “key milestone” for Europe’s largest infrastructure project.
The opening took place roughly 18 months after tunnelling boring machine, Phyllis, started her 4.25 mile journey from Royal Oak to Farringdon, building one of the £14.8bn cross-London rail project’s ten tunnels.
Chief Secretary to the Treasury Danny Alexander, Infrastructure Minister Lord Deighton and Deputy Mayor for Transport Isabel Dedring became the first visitors to set foot inside the completed tunnel, entering via what will be the future Crossrail Farringdon station.
The visitors helped enclose a time capsule in the remaining section of Phyllis. Among the items included in the capsule was a 2013 edition of the London A to Z street atlas donated by the company of A-Z originator Phyllis Pearsall after whom the Phyllis machine was named.
"This first tunnel is a key milestone in the journey towards a better transport network in London,” said Alexander. "Crossrail will transform the way people travel, slashing journey times from the City to Heathrow by around 30 minutes and increasing London's rail capacity by 10 per cent.
“Anyone who travels in London knows Crossrail can't come soon enough and today shows that the project is on track to open in 2018."
Crossrail's eight giant tunnelling machines have completed more than nine miles of the 26 miles of new train tunnels that will link east and west London, and another 8.75 miles of new passenger, platform and service tunnels are being constructed below the new Crossrail stations.
London Mayor Boris Johnson said: "The completion of the first section of Crossrailtunnel is a fantastic achievement for everyone involved in delivering this landmark infrastructure project."
“As well as creating thousands of jobs in the capital and across the UK, it is sending out a very strong message that London is planning for the future and delivering on a scheme that will revolutionise rail travel in our great city.”
When finished the Crossrail route will pass through 38 stations and run from Maidenhead and Heathrow in the west, through new twin-bore 13 mile tunnels to Shenfield and Abbey Wood in the east.
There are more than 10,000 people currently working across 45 construction sites and Crossrail’s management also claims to be on target to deliver over 400 apprenticeships with more than 260 apprentices already working on the project.
“Crossrail has finished construction of its first section of tunnel, showing that the UK can deliver big projects on time and on budget,” said chief executive Andrew Wolstenholme.
“In the process we are creating a new generation of tunnellers, with many of them training at the new £13m Tunnelling and Underground Construction Academy in east London, providing skills for not only Crossrail but future infrastructure projects. We have also helped more than 750 people move from unemployment into work.”