Sneak Peek: Under The Thames With Crossrail

Andy Thornley
By Andy Thornley Last edited 18 months ago
Sneak Peek: Under The Thames With Crossrail
A bend in the tunnel as it snakes under the Thames
A bend in the tunnel as it snakes under the Thames
Each ringed section of concrete is numbered
Each ringed section of concrete is numbered
3, 2, 1... and you're under
3, 2, 1... and you're under
One of the four cross passages enabling emergency access between the tunnels
One of the four cross passages enabling emergency access between the tunnels
Grates have been installed in the middle of the tunnel to aid drainage
Grates have been installed in the middle of the tunnel to aid drainage
The jigsaw-like nature of the rings gives the structure its strength
The jigsaw-like nature of the rings gives the structure its strength
Light at the end of the tunnel at North Woolwich
Light at the end of the tunnel at North Woolwich
An emergency platform near the end of the tunnel at North Woolwich
An emergency platform near the end of the tunnel at North Woolwich
Stairs where a walkway will soon be built
Stairs where a walkway will soon be built
The entrance to the tunnels in North Woolwich. The tunnel in the left of the picture will take trains away from London, and the one on the right will take trains towards London
The entrance to the tunnels in North Woolwich. The tunnel in the left of the picture will take trains away from London, and the one on the right will take trains towards London

The former NBA basketballer Charles Barkley once said “sometimes the light at the end of the tunnel is a train”. We did see a light at the end of the Crossrail tunnels; however it wasn’t a train as they won’t be running until 2018.

Good progress has been made on the warren of tunnels burrowing through the capital and Londonist was on-hand as Crossrail kindly invited us on-site to see the only part of the route that will pass under the Thames.

This section of tunnel, or should we say tunnels (there are two, one for each direction of travel) pass from Plumstead to North Woolwich near the ferry terminal and reach for almost two miles. The section under the Thames itself runs for 460m.

The tunnelling in this section was faster than through other parts of London due to the chalk and flint near the river, rather than the sticky London clay elsewhere. As they bore under the Thames, the tunnelling machines convert waste chalk and flint to slurry which is then made into ‘cakes’ to be used for land reclamation.

In total, this section of Crossrail has seen 500,000 tonnes of material removed by the two tunnelling machines, Mary and Sophia — named after the wives of Isambard and Marc Brunel who constructed the first ever Thames tunnel over 150 years ago.

Twenty three tunnels now pass under the Thames fulfilling a whole host of functions — from carrying communication cables to providing routes for vehicles and tube/DLR trains.

This isn't the first time we've explored the Crossrail tunnels, here's a video of our trip on a worker's train and there's more here too.

Last Updated 24 June 2016

unslugged

"Grates have been installed in the miggle of the tunnel to aid drainage"

Miggle.

LOL :-)

David W

So beautiful, subfluvial neo-brutalist art..almost a pity to add the trains..liking the North Woolwich ziggurat...seriously, another great achievement by the excellent Crossrail folk.

John Zebedee

Surely the caption under the last photo at the North Woolwich tunnel entrance is incorrect. Cross Rail isn't going to be right-hand running is it?

Whovian Marvel Tube Life

No way. I thought there would be more areas under the Thames. Apart from School, you learn something new every day.

Mary Smith

Great pictures - the boring machines have the same names as me and my new great granddaughter ! I will copy these articles for her to see what was happening at the time she was born !