One of Europe’s largest railway infrastructure projects is almost completed. The London Crossrail, better known as Elizabeth Line – that will be the name of the route after the opening – crosses the entire city center of London from east to west with a distance of 21.6 kilometers. But that’s just the underground part. Above ground it goes west out of the city to Reading in Berkshire. In addition, there is a branch, which then leads back underground forming a connection to the London Heathrow airport. The Crossrail will also run east and out of the city to Shenfield in Essex. Overall, you will be able to ride 118 miles from the Reading terminal to Shenfield, including 21 kilometers through the completely perforated City of London.
Please board – with delay
The construction of this giant project started in 2009, but the planning goes back even further. As early as 1941, the railroad historian George Dow proposed to connect the Paddington and Liverpool Stops with railway tunnels.
The entire Crossrail route is to be opened in sections. The underground Elizabeth Line was supposed to open in December of this year. But as with all major projects, there are delays in London. However, these are still moderate. The expected duration of the delay will be roughly nine months, so that in August of 2019 trains released to the public should be able to pass through the tunnels. Of course, this also drives up construction costs, up to now 600 million pounds. However, the increase is not too heavy given the previous estimation of 14.8 billion pounds.
Tunnel boring machines are always female
A total of eight tunnel boring machines were used in pairs for the four tunnel sections. They all come from the German machine manufacturer Herrenknecht. Each of these giant machines weighs 980 tons, has a length of 148 meters and a diameter of 7.1 meters. Despite the monstrous proportions, these machines perform millimeter-accurate work. And they’d better, because London’s underground is now pretty much perforated. After all, tunnel tubes have been dug here for almost 200 years, including the first metro in the world, the Metropolitan Line. In some places, the distance between Crossrail and other subway tubes or their lines is less than fifty centimeters.
As tradition has it, each machine gets its own name – and they are, of course, very British: there is the machine couple Victoria and Elizabeth (named after Queen Victoria and Queen Elizabeth II) and there are also sonorous names like Ada and Phyllis (named after the English computer pioneer Ada Lovelace and after the author of the first London road map with index, Phyllis Pearsall). The other tunnel boring machines, too, carry female names. Because what they have in common with all other large machines in the world: they are female, no matter whether they are ships, locomotives, aircrafts, rockets or just tunnel boring machines. When people build great things, these constructs are always female. This is true even when some of them carry male names such as “Gorch Fock” or “Emperor Wilhelm the Great”. When referred to, they remain female!